6 Degrees: Friday Flix-St Patrick’s Day Edition


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Happy St Patrick’s Day to my fellow Film Fans!


Happy St Patrick’s Day to my fellow film fans!

At the movies: This week in movies, we see the opening of another Benji, which has been reviewed as something so close to the original Benji as to be redundant. But those of us who are Uber Dog lovers will not quibble. The remake is sufficiently cute and heartstring-inducing to be acceptable.

The Subject is Objectivity: On the subject of Film Criticism, there’s a good article this week in 6 Degrees magazine about Casablanca, where the critic writes, “How could I have written a…book on 1940’s Hollywood and …devoted so little space to Casablanca?” He goes on to admit that Casablanca isn’t a favorite, and then cites a long list of classics that DO arouse his passion.

I forgive him because if we’re honest, then that’s true of all of us. I do acknowledge many of the classics don’t exactly move me to watch them over and over. However, you can acknowledge the excellence and innovative techniques used by the filmmakers, and still allow the film may not ‘move you’ in a significant way. With film, often there is a gut reaction that embeds them in your psyche and compels you to want to see the film again and again. It can allow you to identify with a mood or character and makes you ‘get it’ on that deeply psychic level.

To that end, in my book, 6 Degrees of Film, I compiled the “List of 100’, and as noted before on the 6 Degrees blog, the endless lists we see, from everything that can be compiled including science-fiction films, horror, rom-com, classics and any combination of categories and genres that go on and on are rendered meaningless by their ubiquitous nature. One of my pet peeves is the overly large number of films listed in these articles (I’ll leave my list of 100 films out of the argument for the moment!).

When compiling the best films lists of any recent year, reaching the number of up to 50 or 100 seems high to me. Yes, we can compile lists for the best films of the decade, or for an entire genre to reach the higher numbers, but there should be some discernment and discretion with critics compiling these long lists of films where, when actually perused, as I have done, seem to include lots of questionable picks and sometimes just feel loosely pulled together in order to create the headline, rather than fulfilling the headline’s narrative with the content required to follow up. (For example: Best Villains who dress well or Best Looking supporting actresses wearing swimsuits….)

About the List of 100: In the book. 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village, there is a list compiled of favorite films in the back of the book. Among the films listed is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is a landmark film in so many ways. The film’s fiftieth anniversary has arrived, and there are a few articles about the making of Kubrick’s classic in the 6 Degrees Magazine.

Here’s an excerpt from my book that points to the reasons that this film made such a significant impact on future filmmakers such as George Lucas:

The Roots of ILM
A Life magazine story from the 1960s summed up
the crisis in visual effects in movies: “There were so many
innovations occurring in film, but in the field of special
effects, there was a dearth of ideas. The big studios couldn’t
finance the large Technicolor spectacles that had been the
signature entertainment for decades at studios like MGM and
Paramount. By the sixties, the film industry had begun to
resemble, a company town where the mine has closed.” 116
Demographics had changed, and audiences had changed. Even
television had evolved, and the world was rapidly changing too.
This meant that movies needed to evolve and adapt to the changing
times. There was an opening for a big turnaround movie.
One appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey. At 2001’s release in
1969, Stanley Kubrick’s innovations were the cutting edge in
technological advancement in films. But Kubrick’s innovations
did not translate into other copy-cat films, and Kubrick
remained something of a lone-wolf figure. For one thing, the
film was made in England and was too big and too expensive
to emulate. The film failed to revive the waning special-effects
industry in Hollywood. But it did inspire a generation of
young filmmakers who saw that it could be done.
George Lucas was one who acted on that inspiration. He
said, “Almost from the moment film was invented, there was
this idea that you could play tricks, make an audience believe
they were seeing things that really weren’t there. But this was
completely lost by the 1960s.

From the list of 100, there are a few more films recommended for viewing this week. One of the films is in honor of St Patrick’s Day, and is usually shown each year for this occasion. The Quiet Man, the quintessentially Irish film for all things Irish that we love….Also recommended, Casablanca, which we’ve discussed recently on 6 Degrees. And one of my favorite Bogey films in the Film Noir category, The Big Sleep.

Enjoy watching the classics and until next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Here’s what’s happening in the past week, since the Oscars were awarded last Sunday night. For more, check out our 6 Degrees of Film Magazine:

black panther 2018

• There is still lots of talk swirling around The Black Panther and its staying power…The film has broken records at the box office, and has proven to have enormous appeal in the comic book film genre as well as for African Americans seeking positive role models in super-heroes. And in the all-important numbers game, The Black Panther has already made the top ten money makers of all time; passing Beauty and the Beast to reach the ninth spot, as it is expected to eventually overtake the last Star Wars entry in the near future.

A Wrinkle in Time has received mixed reviews…From RogerEbert.com, we learn that the film is a mixed bag with ‘a lot to like.” And this from the Ebert site: ”…in the era of ‘grittiness’ in films, this film has ‘zero interest in seeming cool as it ramps up the sentiment, particularly in the final part of the movie.” From Film Drunk, the analysis is that the film is a series of “affirmations in search of a story.”

• Believe it or not, one week after the Oscars have ended, there’s speculation about nominees for the 2019 Oscar nominees…! Wes Anderson is an acclaimed director still looking for his Oscar win. And Martin Scorsese has another big budget film out, The Irishman, with a star -studded cast. Nominees from this year, Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan are starring in Mary, Queen of Scots.

• This week in Bad Movies: Dwayne Johnson accepted the “Razzie” for his part in last years forgettable Baywatch film version. There’s some talk of Spielberg having a dud on his hands with Ready Player One but it’s too soon to tell. In my opinion, the video game industry is a rather dicey venture when it comes to recreating its success in a Hollywood film. But even if it’s a dud, Spielberg’s film may not be so worthy as to be dubbed a “Razzie” entry. Films require that special something to belong in the classic Bad B Movie category…

• Women’s empowerment and diversity are still on the ascendance in Hollywood these days. The next big film festival, the South by Southwest Festival, is debuting several films from female filmmakers.

• On the Sequel front: Several entries that are already set for 2019 include How to Train Your Dragon 3; The Lego Movie Sequel; Godzilla: King of the Monsters; Avengers 4; a Men in Black sequel; Toy Story 4; The Secret Life of Pets 2; Top Gun: Maverick (33 years later!); Angry Birds 2 and Kenneth Branagh’s return as Poirot in Death on the Nile. The long-anticipated sequel to one of the most successful box office animated films of all time from Disney- Frozen 2, is set for November of 2019. And the sequel department would not be complete without the last entry in the granddaddy of all film sequels: Star Wars Episode IX out in December of 2019.

That’s it for this week. There are still some Oscar nominated films that are now On Demand that I want to see: The Darkest Hour is one of them. Next week, a look at some of the small screen films that deserve a viewing at least once in your life….The Armchair Film Festival is always one of my favorite festivals! Till then, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Oscar News


Oscar News

The Oscars show was always a big deal for me…but in recent years, …not so much. The glamour is not there, and there are so many award shows, it just doesn’t pack the same punch. The turning point for me happened when they sent the Disney characters into the audience one year and Tom Hanks and Paul Newman just looked embarrassed. They don’t seem to know how to bring the show into the modern era

The biggest problem that has been widely documented is the diversity issue. The Academy was an “Old White Guy” organization and it showed. They have worked on trying to repair the breech, but it’s been painfully slow to watch.

Some stand-out moments I remember from recent years occurred when Lady Gaga sang The Sound of Music, and then when Billy Crystal returned to host the show it just seemed funnier, but James Franco remains, in my opinion, the worst host in Oscar history. I hope the show isn’t overlong, and the disaster of an announcement for Best Picture doesn’t occur again…Warren Beatty is probably blackballed forever. I keep watching it out of habit, but with each passing year, the glitz and glamor of a bygone era becomes more painfully evident.

Here is what I wrote about the Academy Awards in my book 6 Degrees of Film: The future of film in the Global Village from 2013:

On the Academy Awards

One of my biggest beefs is that even in the twenty-first century the Academy Awards show looks a lot like a holdout from a bygone era. The glitz and glamour are not as believable when there is so much more to the film industry in the modern era. The age of computer imaging and video games and the type of sophisticated special effects used in modern films are barely acknowledged. Little mention is given to the separate awards ceremony held for the scientific and technical awards. James Cameron invented a new method of filmmaking, and George Lucas and others initiated many breakthroughs in the way we see things on film. But none of these accomplishments are honored. New categories should be created to acknowledge these developments so they can be brought to the public’s attention. The global village of filmmaking is compartmentalized into one or two categories of short films and the foreign film category. Even though Slumdog Millionaire won several Oscars in 2009, the film is treated as if none of that ever happened. The encapsulated world of Hollywood elites still appears to be fairly homogenized (barring a few obligatory jokes about Jews in Hollywood). The only nod to the changing of the guard was in 2010 when Barbra Streisand handed the Best Director award to a woman (Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker) for the first time, and when Halle Berry, the first African American woman to receive the Best Actress award, acknowledged Hattie McDaniel and all of the women of color who had come before her. If Hollywood and filmmaking are a large part of the American persona, and this show is one of our best chances to advertise our unique and diverse American way of life, then why doesn’t Hollywood pull out all the stops on these occasions? Instead, the powers-that-be in Hollywood present a timid and tepid tribute to films in a way they have done many times before. Shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement of innovation? To my mind, that is “the stuff that dreams are made of,” which Bogey spoke of so long ago….

And here we are, five years after 6 Degrees of Film was published, and I still have the same complaints! There are no innovative new categories, and the diversity issue is still front and center. We are still talking about the ‘old white guys’ show, with few exceptions.

But this year may be different. In this changed atmosphere, post #MeToo and Harvey Weinstein, then there may be some movement in the gender discrimination category.

Would it kill them to be innovative and come up with some new categories? Such as best “Breakthrough Performer” or Most Promising….really anything that smacks of “Something Different.” There’s been some discussion of late about naming the Best Picture that was awarded the Oscar for “Best Picture.” The Godfather and Lawrence of Arabia come to mind.

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Movies of the 21st Century

Winners in this category would be Slumdog Millionaire, with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, A Beautiful Mind and Gladiator being on the short list.

Nominated films that were superior include: Lost in Translation, Capote, Munich, Juno, There Will Be Blood, Up, The Social Network, Inception, Moneyball, Gravity, Her, The Big Short, The Revenant, Arrival, Fences, and a few more that define the times we live in much better than the films that won the Oscar.

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This year, Lady Bird and Get Out will probably not win, as they are not odds on favorites. The Shape of Water is an interesting entry, and it gets my vote, but Three Billboards is an outside favorite that has a good chance.

The point of it all isn’t really that these winners are the “Best” films, but the films with either more popular votes from Academy winners, or they represent a snapshot in time, and may or may not have staying power. Most of the recent winning films are forgettable.


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6 Degrees of Film


Sign up for 6 Degrees Friday Flix

Sign up for my mailing list to see all the latest news in film each week in Friday Flix. 6 Degrees of Film magazine features all the latest reviews and articles from leading publishers about current and classic movies. In editing the magazine, I make a point of going into the archives as well as searching the internet to find the latest reviews and summarizing the Big Picture each week in Friday Flix.

6 Degrees of Film blog features quarterly newsletters, weekly film reviews and reports, as well as excerpts from my 2013 book 6 Degrees of film: The Future of film in the Global Village. We also include reviews of classic movies, and current films in theaters and recommendations on television in the recurring feature: The Armchair Film Festival.  In other words, 6 Degrees is your one-stop shopping for all the film news that’s fit to print. Join us as we go through the latest winners and wrap up the Oscars report this week. We love to hear from you all….Enjoy the show and until next week, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Capsule Review:The Black Panther

black panther 2018

I’ve seen so many reviews of this film that center around the ‘feel good’ politics of Black Panther. I’ve seen the fantasy politics of Black Panther listed, as well as the spoiler alerts tying the film into the Marvel Universe. There’s the record breaking box office numbers, as well as the stories of the many groups of young African American children going to see this film. And others who see it are wearing traditional African garb. In short, it’s a phenomenon…a ‘thing’.

And the film has been well received. Of the films in the superhero universe, this one is a cut above the rest. The plot centers around the rise to the throne of T’Challa, who is the new king in the fictional African country of Wakanda. Wakanda has hidden its amazing and superior technology from the outside world, and this is the central debate later in the film. Should they share this knowledge, or continue to keep it hidden…?

Without too many spoilers, the film is driven by the rise to the throne of the new king, played by Chadwick Boseman.  The Black Panther’s super powers include not only superior intellect, but his strength which is derived from the special formula that is given to the king to drink. And then there’s the technology, similar to James Bond’s, where he dons a special suit made of the miraculous fictional metal mined only in Wakanda known as Vibranium.  The Vibranium  makes him impervious to bullets and other weapons of dastardly origins.

But in my estimation, the thing that sets this superhero apart is the fact he is touted as a man with a heart. His father talks to him from beyond the grave, telling him, “You are a good man, and that is something that may bring trouble for you”, which is a wise thing to tell your son, if you only have a few moments with him in the afterlife. The film centers not entirely on the concept of this superhero saving people and thwarting dastardly deeds, but also working to help others, to find himself and to find his true love.

In other words, it may depict the life of an ordinary man in an extraordinary world, or the reverse of this. That is the debate in history: Are great and exceptional men made so by the times they live in, or is greatness thrust upon them due to the circumstances in which they find themselves? We think of our Founding Fathers and the greatest Presidents and leaders of the Civil Rights era. These men all had great hearts, and although most had their share of flaws, they were able to rise above and to grasp the moment and meet the occasion to prevail.

In this film, T’Challa may or may not be the one who is the strongest fighter, but he is the one who is the ablest, the wisest, and the one who will prevail. This is the takeaway that is most heartening for any of the superhero films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Perhaps, in the end, at least according to the laws of this fictional universe, not the strongest but the wisest will be the one who prevails. It’s a good lesson in life.

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film


Happy Friday Film Fans! Here’s a short list of the films recommended to record coming up in the next week on Turner Classics.  Each film is reviewed in 6 Degrees magazine, so click the title to go to the reviews for each. The list includes:

Cat Ballou: Starring Jane Fonda; the film’s highlights include the title song sung by Nat King Cole, as a strolling banjo player singing the ballad of Cat Ballou. Lee Marvin won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in his comic turn as the drunker hero who deflates the stereotype of the stalwart gunslinger of legend that actors like John Wayne loved to portray.
The Search: Stars Montgomery Clift and is a unique look at the refugees of World War II who were comprised mainly of children. The story centers around a soldier, played by Clift, who is suddenly swept up in the refugee crisis when he becomes attached to one of the orphaned boys, and is torn between his strong bond with the child and his continued search to help reunite him with his parents. Although the film has its weaker moments when it dips into sentimentality, the overarching theme of loss and redemption, and the brilliant acting of a young Montgomery Clift in his prime, combine to make this a film worth watching.
The Lion in Winter: It’s embarrassing to admit there are some films that are so well known to me I can recite the lines. This is one of those films. Adapted from a stage play, with the brilliant idea borne from the kernels of truth, the writer imagines what it would be like to spend the Christmas holidays with the powerful King Henry II and his wife Eleanor. The kicker is that she has been imprisoned by Henry after raising an insurrection to overthrow him from the throne, although she’s  out of confinement just for the holidays.. This is not the stuff of myth, but is part of the historical record.The truth is stranger than fiction, by all accounts, and Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn really do eat up the scenery with over the top performances as Henry and Eleanor, along with a young Anthony Hopkins playing son Richard. The film is a fanciful flight of the writers’ imagination, wondering what it would be like to be ‘a fly on the wall’ as we hear the two powerful monarchs fight and manipulate each other and those around them in this tragi-comic tale.
The Year of Living Dangerously is one of director Peter Weir’s best films. Linda Hunt is magnificent, cast as a man in a role in which she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and her performance has to be seen to be appreciated. Sigourney Weaver and Mel Gibson are both superbly cast, with Weaver as the journalist with conviction and Gibson as the flawed hero.
All the President’s Men is shown this week. I have never felt this was a masterpiece, however, the film deals with the search for the truth. The writing is superb, done by one of Hollywood’s great screenwriters, William Goldman, and it seems to rise to the occasion as we learn the phrase never uttered by Deep Throat: Follow the Money. This film is worth a second look, particularly in the current climate we live in that involves political intrigue and Russian meddling with our election system.
Rebel without a Cause is another b-movie that has been raised to mythic proportions. James Dean was the promising young heir apparent in Hollywood whose life was so tragically cut short, when he was killed in a car accident after completing only three major films. But this film elevates the notion of teenage angst at a time when young people were not given the same deep seated psychological examinations they are afforded in this new age. And the two leads, James Dean and Natalie Wood, rise to the occasion and turn in notable performances in this surprisingly enduring story directed by Nicholas Ray.

black panther 2018

At the Movies: The long-awaited Black Panther has arrived at the movies, and the reviews have been favorable for the most part. Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is also out, and it seems to be a hit with most of Anderson’s fans. Both films are reviewed in 6 Degrees.

6 Degrees Magazine also features articles on the upcoming Oscars, as well as other current releases. So stay tuned as we will soon feature the annual Oscar News Newsletter from 6 Degrees.

It’s been a busy week, and there’s plenty of better than average films to see during the film festival season in Hollywood! Till next week, enjoy the films from TCM and see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Happy Friday! Here’s a look at some of the stories that have been front and center in Hollywood these past few days. The Oscar Race is underway, with leading contenders like “The Shape of Water” and its director Guillarme del Toro, vying for the Oscar along with some dark horses such as 22 year old Timothee Chalamet who is nominated for Best Actor for Call Me By Your Name.

Best Actor bets are on Gary Oldman for his portrayal of Churchill in Darkest Hour, but past winner Daniel Day-Lewis is also up for Phantom Thread, as well as fellow Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Roman J Israel, Esq) and Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out).

The Best Actress category features first time nominee Sally Hawkins, who played the mute cleaning woman in The Shape of Water up against Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), the “legendary’ Oscar winner Meryl Streep, who is nominated for The Post, plus Margot Robbie in I, Tonya and Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird.

In Theatres: Fifty Shades Freed is out, and mercifully brings the series based on the best-selling book to an end. The reviews have not been kind. Also out is the much-anticipated Black Panther superhero film, which has garnered good reviews in early release. Clint Eastwood directed the 15:17 to Paris film, based on true events, and it has had mixed reviews.

There’s an article in 6 Degrees Magazine about the highest grossing movies, and at Friday Flix, we listed the top ten a few weeks ago. The all time biggest grossing movies, both Number 1 & 2 were directed by the same man: James Cameron. Cameron directed both Avatar and Titanic.

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The latest Star Wars offering just made the top ten list, which means there are two of the highest grossing films in history from the Star Wars Franchise. Disney, as we know, owns the Star Wars franchise, so the total number of films from the Disney franchise in the top ten list is five, meaning half of these big box office winners are Disney films.

The good news here is that there are creative forces at work that have helped to shape these films…from James Cameron’s innovative cinematography to the development of CGI that began when George Lucas started Industrial Light and Magic over thirty years ago (See the excerpt recently published on our blog from 6 Degrees of Film.)

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And “Girl Power” is more of a force than ever in film-making, with Frozen and the introduction of the Jedi Novitiate Rey in the Star Wars franchise. But there are still far too many films that rely on thin plots and comic book premises, CGI rendered story lines and weak plot points that have brought us to where we are in the film industry. Films that simply churn out the same tired super hero stories in sequel after sequel with formulaic plots and overly simplistic characters have become the standard in Hollywood filmmaking. And unfortunately, it sells.

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There are approximately three-count ‘em…three, films on the list of top ten films that are not sequels or have not been made into a series. Frozen has had spin-offs, but it is the only animated film to make the list. This speaks to the rising tide of women and girls who clamor for strong female role models, beginning with little girls who want to see the heroine carry the film for a change. Titanic was a ‘one-off’ for obvious reasons, although I would never say never in this environment. And the Avatar sequel is in the works, though Cameron has delayed the announcement of a definite opening date for several years.

Films like Lady Bird, The Florida Project, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and The Shape of Water still get made. There are original projects, great writers and talented actors and directors who give us wonderful and creative films despite the long odds. But the overwhelming trend in recent years has been to stick with the predictable models and continue to churn out the ‘chum’ of sequel-mania. And the list for 2018 doesn’t indicate many changes anytime soon.

Coming Soon: But when something comes along that looks interesting, original, creative and fun, we will be right up-front cheering the film along! There’s a unique entry from Wes Anderson coming soon called Isle of Dogs, which is a stop-motion film; and Ron Howard is directing Solo: A Star Wars story, which should be entertaining.

Sundance Film Festival featured The Kindergarten Teacher, and Joaquin Phoenix has received lots of buzz for his performance in the upcoming You Were Never Really Here. Check out the Film Comment Podcast: “I loved it when I was a kid”, talking about movies that the critics saw and remembered from their childhoods. It’s always fun to look back on those movies we loved, and sometimes to cringe when we watch them again and realize they weren’t always great cinematic gems, but then again, sometimes we enjoy them even more when we see them after all these years!

Until next week, have fun and see you at the movies!


6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Your Armchair Film Fest: Some films to see and say “I”ve seen it” are found every month on Turner Classic Movies. (Click on the link to take you to dates and times). We’ve included a few of these in the list of films to record this month:

Films to record in February:

On the Waterfront: Some feel that, apart from his role as Don Corleone in The Godfather, this is one of Brando’s best performances (I am one of those people!)

Casablanca: If not for the plot, then simply to hear Bogey in one of his signature roles, say: “Play it, Sam” (He never said, Play it again, Sam!)

The political films are relevant in these turbulent times, and if you have not seen or experienced these documentaries and popular films that portray important periods in our nation’s history, then here is a great opportunity to catch up. I recommend not only All the President’s Men and Being There but also a back-to-back lineup that includes: Freedom on My Mind-about the Civil Rights movement and the Freedom Riders; Four Days in November which recalls the assassination of President Kennedy; An Inconvenient Truth, which is the documentary narrated by VP Al Gore on Climate change; The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary on the life of one of the first openly gay politicians in the country who was assassinated (In my opinion, it’s superior to the film starring Sean Penn). The other films are Woodstock: The Director’s Cut which gives us a glimpse of the time period surrounding the famous folk festival at Woodstock in 1969. And finally, Hearts and Minds documents the Vietnam War, and the phrase is now familiar to all as we hear it in connection with “winning hearts and minds” in the Gulf Wars that have followed this one.

All of these films are recommended viewing for those who have never seen them and are perhaps curious about the time period surrounding the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the protest period that ensued in the late 60’s and early 70’s in our country.

In coming weeks, we will feature the Oscar News Newsletter out before the Sunday, March 4th Oscars Ceremony. Stay tuned and till next time, see you at the movies!