6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Greetings to all movie buffs out there! This week there have been some good movies I’ve heard about, and a few reviews are posted on the Macguffin site. Detroit has good reviews, but is not as uplifting as some might like. Wind River, with Jeremy Renner, garnered some good reviews, but the MacGuffin review wasn’t as gushing. The review ends with: “Wind River is a compelling story, but with Taylor Sheridan’s script, it turned into a crime drama that borders on hokey” So…
Logan Lucky has garnered good reviews. Steven Soderbergh directs this film described as “The Hillbilly Version of Ocean’s Eleven”. The Big Sick, the new version of a Rom-Com, is still out there, and there’s an interview in 6 Degrees magazine this week with the director and the actors from the film.
The Dark Tower has continued to disappoint. But the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, It, has generated some good buzz. Some of the other films playing this month are The Glass Castle and War for the Planet of the Apes.
From the Film Comment site: I’ve often discussed the book and reviews from Mark Harris, who wrote “Pictures at a Revolution” in 2008-about the 1960’s film culture and the changes in our society that were interwoven with the films produced then. This week, one of the funnier ironies is the discussion Harris has, reminding us there was no “Summer Film Season” in those pre-Blockbuster days. And some of the films about youth were made by a 66 year old producer and a 72 year old director.
Some discussions and articles on this front have appeared in the magazine about the anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde. 50 years ago, it was a cutting edge film with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The counter-culture had really just begun to emerge and this film was the articulation of many a young person’s angst and frustration with the prevailing establishment. The same is true with James Dean’s Rebel without a Cause in the 50’s. These films were then seen as so outside the norm for the at times cookie-cutter productions that passed for films about youth, that they appeared as breaths of fresh air much in the tradition of Juno & The Social Network- to use some recent 21st Century examples. The legacy of Bonnie and Clyde is another good read featured from the rogerebert site.
Speaking of Ebert: Roger Ebert is to be inducted posthumously into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame this weekend, on August 19th. As I’ve stated many times, the fusion that Ebert was able to create between the old world of film criticism and the post tech world of the internet has not been replicated since his passing. But his film website remains one of the best sites to go for reviews of films past and present. Also on Ebert: A review of The Glass Castle and the historical action drama Pilgrimage.
This week in Hollywood: The Best paid actresses list saw Emma Stone knocking off Jennifer Lawrence to become the highest paid leading lady in Hollywood. See the entire list in 6 Degrees magazine. Another headline that could have been posted under: We saw this coming. After AMC has had quite a run as the top dog in the Theatrical film distribution industry, there is a post: “AMC Theaters is not Happy about the new Super Cheap MoviePass Service” Boo-Hoo. There have been lots of blows to the movie industry over the past 100 years, and cinema has had to roll with the punches. But somehow, the moguls and corporate gurus have always found a way to make a buck….Seems likely that will continue! MoviePass is a $10.00 a month service. See the article in Business Insider in our magazine.
An interesting post for the 6 Degrees of Film folk: A post from the Quartz website has listed some movies that may have influenced the Game of Thrones recent dramatic offerings. The films listed? The Lord of the Rings; The Magnificent Seven and The Avengers all seemed to make perfect sense. Out of place: The Mighty Ducks? Well, there is always something known as “Comic Relief”
Finally, in the latest Bond James Bond news, there’s a sigh of collective relief as the stories are rolling out this week that Daniel Craig is indeed returning in the role he has embraced so well.
Coming Soon: Fall and the Fall Movie News: Films like the aforementioned  It from Stephen King, Jennifer Lawrence in Mother, The sequel to Kingsman: The Golden Circle; Battle of the Sexes with Steve Carrell and Emma Stone; American made with Tom Cruise; Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 (same director as Arrival!); The Foreigner with Jackie Chan; a Bio -pic of Thurgood MarshallMarshall; and Michael Fassbender in The Snowman.
Many more are coming around the bend. Fasten your seat belts, and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Greetings moviegoers! As I’ve described several times in the past few months, nothing excites readers more than talk of the next James Bond. And the odds are that Daniel Craig is going to be back for the next two outings. That news has been met with some relief and some kerfuffling, because anything good or bad about James Bond movies causes a kerfuffle.
There is a review of Al Gore’s sequel to the Inconvenient Truth movie. It doesn’t really proclaim the film to be good or bad, but simply, as noted by one ardent environmentalist, it’s hard to keep announcing to the media: Well, the climate is still warming! In other words, nothing has changed, and the trends are moving faster than they predicted in the first documentary. So, there’s that.
One review of Atomic Blonde notes the success of John Wick, which may have led to the advent of the Atomic Blonde model. In fact, the prediction was made that without beautiful and photogenic Charlize Theron in the title role, the film would have been a failure. And then there is Wonder Woman. Some had a fit when it was dare suggested (by me) that without the beautiful and statuesque Amazonian model, (Gadot), there is no plot for Wonder Woman.
New Releases: Wind River with Jeremy Renner has been favorably reviewed on the Macguffin film site. Also, Ghost Story with Casey Affleck has gotten good reviews. Both movies are reviewed in 6 Degrees of Film magazine.

Good Idea: If you want to keep a list of good horror flicks for the coming Fall and Halloween season loaded  with plenty of ghouls and dark nights, there’s a nice film site that has some good suggestions. It’s awesomebmovies.com, which is a darn good idea for a film blog site. I’ve always been partial to the good and bad B Movie rolls.
The David Bordwell film site has some books on movies that look really good. The books recommended include: “When Movies were Theater” by William Paul. The book looks at the actual architecture of the old art movie theaters that played a key role in developing an idea of what passes as American Films. “Two Cheers for Hollywood” from writer Joseph McBride runs the gamut with reviews on the Coen Brothers and other iconic filmmakers, as well as interviews with famous filmmakers and screenwriters like George Cukor and Billy Wilder.  “Awake in the Dark” is a book containing the best reviews of Roger Ebert. We still don’t have great film critics that rival Ebert. There are good film critics working today, but film critiques are becoming something of a lost art. This collection provides a roadmap and a glimpse into our own past, as we see what we are missing. The fourth book was mentioned last week: “Color and Empathy: Essays on Two Aspects of Film”, with essays about the treatment of color in silent films as well as 1950’s Hollywood and Experimental films. If you have an interest in cinema beyond the casual Saturday matinee (an outdated term, to be sure!), you will want to read at least one or all of these books to glean some of the defining elements of a classic movie.
There’s a two part review of Dunkirk in 6 Degrees Magazine from the David Bordwell site. Dunkirk is still one of the best films out there at the moment, so it’s worth the read. The reviews for The Dark Tower have revealed it to be mostly a disappointment bordering on a bomb. This from a review in SF Gate: “Though this movie is based on up to eight novels, there’s enough story here for only a very good one-hour, one-off TV drama…Everything that takes place between is filler, and what’s worse…is that it actually feels like filler” Not so good.

Other films, other reviews: The Glass Castle is reviewed on NPR. There’s an interesting piece, also on NPR, that features several reviewers trying to expand on the best works from Stephen King. King is known for horror, but he also wrote The Shawshank Redemption, and some of his essays and work about writing is mandatory for all who know and love the craft of writing.

Sadly, there’s a timely piece from filmschoolrejects.com on Cinema and the Spectacle of Nuclear War…or as they flippantly add: how the movies taught us to stop worrying and love the fire and fury.
The Best Of: Category that includes the work of Dustin Hoffman. Rolling Stone has an article with 20 of his greatest performances. And in that vein, there’s a post in the magazine with the top 20 greatest movie music moments in film.
In general, the predictions are holding true about what has been summarized and speculated upon for weeks. The Summer of 2017 has been the Summer from Hell for Box Office. The industry is reeling, with AMC suffering huge losses. King Arthur started the summer as a big flop, and films like Baywatch predictably tanked. Ticket sales are down 10%. One analyst, speaking of predictable, said the poor box office was attributable to: “the overreliance on sequels catching up to Hollywood. Everyone save for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 disappointed.” Really?

There are other disappointments. Valerian tanked, and the acclaimed Kathryn Bigelow film Detroit has struggled to break even. And this is without mentioning the threat that China brings to the American film industry. There is panic reported across the studio lots.
There are two schools of thought, with some believing that it’s simply a bump, and that by next summer, people will return to the theater for the Star Wars films and other successful franchises and sequels. But this type of magical thinking has never been correct, as the films have evolved from silent to talkies to glamorous Golden Age to the age of television and blockbusters and independents and on and on into the 21st Century. Where it stops, who knows? But the odds are that the film industry is evolving quickly, and it’s safe to bet on change for the foreseeable future. Read the article in Variety on 6 Degrees: “Time to Panic: Inside the Movie Business’ Summer of Hell” In Esquire, this article is also cited with the final analysis being: “It is tempting to think that this summer will teach Hollywood a lesson, but of course it will not” I agree.
The constant evolving nature of film is something that I wrote about in my book, 6 Degrees of Film. And that has continued as we move from one blockbuster season into another with almost no break in between. We are now gearing up for the Fall Film Season with some releases held out for the Holidays and those that are touted for the major Awards, Oscars and the like. So stay tuned. Winter is Coming! See you at the movies-ML

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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Happy August and welcome to the dog days of summer! 6 Degrees blog and 6 Degrees magazine are both gearing up for the Fall Movie Season. The August films have some likely suspects including Wind River with Jeremy Renner and the long-awaited Dark Tower with Idris Elba. Our 6 Degrees Fall Newsletter is coming soon so stay tuned.
This week in film, there’s been a look back at two significant actors in the history of cinema. One is Jeanne Moreau, the French actress who came to prominence during the French “New Wave” era of filmmaking in the sixties. The other is playwright and actor Sam Shephard, notable for his performance in The Right Stuff as well as some lesser known films that were personal favorites, Thunderheart and Shephard’s own quirky film adapted from the play he wrote, Fool for Love, as well as Frances with his long-time companion Jessica Lange
The Turner Classic Movie blog, Streamline, has an article on the films of Ingrid Bergman. The other films featured on their blog are The River from 1951 and Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty, made in 1978.
Of Note: The Macguffin movie site features an interview with Matthew Heineman, who directed the documentary City of Ghosts, about a group of citizen journalists determined to operate undercover in the war torn city of Raqqa. Also on the Macguffin site is an interview with the director of A Ghost Story starring Casey Affleck. Both films have been well reviewed. You can find both reviews in 6 Degrees magazine this week.
Another film with good reviews  from the Macguffin site, Detroit, directed by Academy-Award winner Kathryn Bigelow, is about the events surrounding an unfolding race riot that occurred in the summer of 1967 in Detroit. A recent release that has had some lukewarm reviews is The Dark Tower, with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. The expectations were huge for this Stephen King adaptation, so nothing likely could have met the high bar for success with this one.
Film Comment has a post by Mark Harris from his 2008 book, Pictures at a Revolution, about the films that helped us along as we changed our movie tastes as well as our culture during the Revolutionary period of the sixties. He writes, “Moviegoers who were flocking to films like Bergman’s Through a Glass Darkly didn’t mind unanswered questions.” Which is true when the thread tells you that foreign films, and art house films, have always led moviegoers in a different direction. You don’t go into an art house and expect neatly chronological plot lines and endings where the story is wrapped up and tied in a bow. This was the dawning of the age of the independent film and the birth of the Sundance and Telluride Film Festivals.
Another great film blog site is the Self-styled siren blog. Finally, she has a new post entitled, “Bad Movie Double Feature” which is always a good fit at this time of year. (See “The Bad-B’s of Summer re-post).
The scuttlebutt around Hollywood is that this has been a weak summer. There are growing concerns about movie attendance rates, with more people tuning in to the small screen and just waiting for On Demand or Netflix and its ilk. One problem was that 2016 resulted in record box-office numbers of over 11 billion dollars.
One solution discussed is a shorter window between the film’s theatrical debut and its release for home viewing. But the slump may be countered with one startlingly brazen suggestion: High quality films and better casts with exceptional screenplays. Just a thought. The final analysis: “Being down 4 percent from an all-time record box office is just not a big deal.”
And with the reminder that the Sound and the Fury signifies Much Ado about Nothing, I will remember to watch the Shakespeare films I recorded last month. Until next week, we will try and stay cool and I’ll see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

This week we’ve got the 6 Degrees Dunkirk Review going up on the 6 Degrees blog. Great flick, and it has generally been reviewed very favorably, by myself and most critics. Atomic Blonde has opened this week, and War for the Planet of the Apes has opened with good box office numbers. An Atomic Blonde review from NPR is featured in 6 Degrees magazine.
Not faring so well is the new Emoji Movie, which has been widely panned. And the sci-fi film Valerian is generally acknowledged as being a flop.
Also in the magazine this week: There’s a book review of the late director George Romero’s classic horror films, “Nights of the Living Dead.” The other passing was of the actor John Heard, with some of his best films reviewed in an article from flickchart.com.
One of my favorite films from Albert Brooks is reviewed on our site. Lost in America, originally released in 1985, is now out on Blu-Ray. And the New York Film Festival, running from September 28th through October 15th, will close with a debut from Woody Allen called Wonder Wheel, starring Justin Timberlake, James Belushi and Kate Winslet.
Another of my favorite themes-Girl Power-is explored in a Film Inquiry piece this week. With Wonder Woman, Atomic Blonde, and A Wrinkle in Time, we have been able to extend the thematic possibilities well beyond the Frozen symbolism, which started the ball rolling.
There’s a review of the original (of course, still the best) version of The Day the Earth Stood Still with Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal. This film was also directed by Robert Wise of The Sound of Music fame. People often dismiss The Sound of Music as hokum, but Wise was one of those directors that was remarkably successful in different genres, from Film Noir to Sci-Fi and then went on to direct the greatest Family Friendly Film of all time!
Thinking about the iconic films of the sixties: There’s still a question of who will play James Bond in the next go-round. I must say, I love Idris Elba and Charlize Theron, but not as Bond. There are purists out there, and I guess I’m one of them. James Bond posts gets more comments and feedback on the internet than almost any other film article that runs. It’s official-Bond has legs! And we have a review of Casino Royale, one of my favorite Bond films. This review is from the A.V. Club.
For those who like a “deep dive” into film history, the David Bordwell site is featuring a review of a new book by film critic Christine Brinckmann. The book is “Color and Empathy” and the essays follow the treatment of color from silent films, through the fifties, and into experimental films and documentaries as well as the films of Hitchcock.
There’s a post from the LA Times about the director of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, and his complicated history with the Oscars. And since Nolan directed Batman (The Dark Knight), we add the article featuring all the Batman movies ranked, worst to first.
Coming Soon: Another documentary is coming. The sequel to An Inconvenient Truth- this one is An Inconvenient Sequel and also feature the talks of Al Gore, who, though never recognized as a dynamic speaker, becomes fiery and animated on the subject of Global Warming. The trailer for the horror film It has gotten good (scary) buzz. And George Clooney and the Coen Brothers have collaborated on another film, called Suburbicon, which is also written and directed by Clooney.
In August: There’s a feel-good Bollywood Musical Comedy called Mubarakan opening. The plot features twin brothers who “are in love with each other’s betrothed”. The long-awaited Stephen King adaptation of his Dark Tower series comes to the screen with Idris Elba starring. Wind River, with Jeremy Renner on a Native American reservation in Wyoming looks intriguing. There are traces of one of my favorite films that got away-Thunderheart-in the previews I saw.
A Ghost Story with Casey Affleck starring as “a friendly ghost” has gotten good advance press. The same with director Kathryn Bigelow’s film Detroit, about the true story of the killing of three black men during race riots in Detroit in 1967.
Well, Summer is in high gear, and we have had some mixed reviews along the way as we make our way slowly into the Fall Film Season. It’s starting to come earlier and earlier, and that means the Oscar Buzz and the Holiday Films and ….it’s too hot to think about that right now.

 
Hope everyone is enjoying some down time and till next week, see you at the movies!-ML

Capsule Review: Dunkirk

Dunkirk 2017

As period war films go, this film hits all the right notes. The three stories that are juggled throughout meld together well. It seems most of the action-and we know how this story ends-is played to be heard solely through the mood-inducing soundtrack accompanying the action. The mood of the period piece, the drama inherent in the telling of a compelling story, and all the combined components therein conspire to be in sync with the masterly musical overtures heard throughout the film.

The stories include one depicting a couple of young men struggling to stay alive when faced with the enormity of the situation on the beach at Dunkirk. The second storyline is the Mark Rylance plot, the most compelling of the three. He is a local boatman with a son and his helper who brave the channel when the call comes out for rescue. The third story, which is probably the most disappointing and plebian of all, involves Tom Hardy’s flying spitfire squadron group who are tasked with protecting the evacuation from the sky. The dogfights and the tight shots of Hardy’s face are really the only dramatic plot points carried forward in these unremarkable segments.

The story of ordinary men braving the war is held together by Rylance’s performance, subtle, nuanced and most effective-as was the case in Bridge of Spies which earned him an Oscar nomination. The pop star status of Harry Styles is almost taken to parody, as you see Styles as just one of a vast sea of young men with similar faces all waiting for their fates to be decided in the theater of war. The struggle and the miracle of Dunkirk is only as compelling as the belief that ordinary men can do extraordinary things.

Tom Hardy, so movingly effective in the subtle nuance department ranging from The Drop to his role in Lawless, is here almost obliterated literally with a mask and what amounts to a cameo walk-on as a flyer who is seen in a series of cliched Top Gun-nish style shots from the cockpit. There is one reviewer pointing out that the director deliberately challenged Hardy by covering his features and giving him little to work with, but somehow that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you are watching the film.

The plots for all three stories do sync at some point, with the level of action ebbing and flowing accordingly. Kenneth Branagh is decently served as one of the English commanders who oversees the operation and tries to narrate the action in the finally satisfying denouement that is the culmination of the stories blended together. The point, as mentioned, of the miracle of Dunkirk is only realized if you can convey the scope and breadth of the undertaking that led these small boat owners and ordinary citizens to deliver a victory of sorts to the allies. Although very little time is spent on the actual logistics involved in this operation, the visuals are brought home in stark relief with gloriously monochromatic landscapes that fit the theme.

This film would probably not have worked as well with a lesser director, editor, cinematographer and musical score. That means in the final analysis- the film works well for what it is- a period drama that tells a compelling story with gifted actors, a masterful director, and all the other big-budget elements needed to advance the movie.

It is a moving story in many ways, and has much to lend to the short-range projects we often see projected in lights with CGI, with special effects and with space-age fantasy and plot elements. This is one for the ages-meaning the ages past and those with an appreciation of history. As movie making goes in the modern era, in Christopher Nolan’s case, one might say this was his Finest Hour.

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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At the movies in July: We always seem to find time to talk about really bad cinema at this time of year. Summertime somehow lends itself to those awful Bad B movies that were staples from the fifties and sixties. In honor of the Bad B’s, 6 Degrees blog will re-post “The Bad B’s of Summer” again this month.

 
In the 6 Degrees magazine: There’s a profile of Al Pacino from Film Inquiry. And the outofthepastblog.com highlights a new book, Film Noir: Light and Shadow, an anthology of essays about Film Noir. There’s a review of Wild Strawberries from director Ingmar Bergman from 1957. And the indie film The Little Hours is reviewed on the Macguffin.com site.

 
Critically Speaking: The most interesting tidbit that came out of the indiewire post titled “How ‘Planet of the Apes’ Started Hollywood’s Franchise Obsession” was the fact that the writer of The Planet of the Apes, Pierre Boule, also wrote the highly acclaimed World War II novel, The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was of course, adapted to the screen and won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1958.

 
The article in indiewire.com expands upon the surprise success of the Planet of the Apes film series. I do remember that it was, in keeping with the above-mentioned Bad B concept, part of the summer scheme of movie executives to keep releasing the Planet of the Apes films after the initial success with the Charlton Heston 1968 hit movie. Eventually, there was an Ape-a-Rama at our local theater movieplex, where the first 100 in the door to the marathon showing back-to-back screenings of the “Ape” movies got free bananas. And if you wore a chimp suit, you could get in free, I do believe. I did attend, (but not in an ape suit), and I didn’t get the free banana.

 
My point is that this was not a high-brow film series. So when the Planet of the Apes movies took off, they simply rolled them out in the same way they did the Frankie Avalon-Annette Funicello beach movies. And from that, it was theorized in this piece that the dawn of Hollywood’s obsession with franchises and series was born. My belief is that the Star Wars trilogy success changed the model, along with the Blockbuster Summer movies, and what became known as “the juvenilization of film.” That term was coined by Peter Bogdanovich and I used it in my book, 6 Degrees of Film to emphasize the sea change that occurred after the dawn of the age of Star Wars. I believe this was the real reason for Hollywood’s fixation on the franchise.

 
As I’ve mentioned many times, money has always driven Hollywood, and it has been a successful business model for over a century. The Art that exists in film-making is real, but it’s always been a secondary concern for the Hollywood Executives. The dollar and making a buck has driven the film industry since the days Thomas Edison tried to corner the market.

 

Film News: Filmschoolrejects.com has a post on Nicole Kidman and the arc of her career. And the New York Times reviews the British drama, Lady Macbeth, stating the film isn’t really about Lady Macbeth at all. The quote from a critic continues: “the film plunges a cold, sharp knife into the back of bonnet dramas.” So there!
There’s another “list of greatest hits” from Rolling Stone. This one features the Greatest movies of the nineties. At some point, we really need to stop the greatest hits and the lists, as the point is to review great movies, and on some levels, there really isn’t a way to capture a decade or an era on one list. Yet critics are always looking to do this. Or perhaps it’s editor’s who simply run out of ideas and start reaching for compiled lists of things (People love to read lists on the internet, it seems!)

 
Next week, Dunkirk will drop, and it has already garnered some good reviews. The War for the Planet of the Apes has also had very good buzz around it. And Baby Driver has also opened to good press. Valerian has had some mixed reviews, so far, but nothing like the extremely bad pre-screenings seen for Baywatch or Will Ferrell’s House.

 

There have been several articles that have reported Daniel Craig is returning as James Bond, so the wild and frenzied speculation to crown the next Bond may be a bit premature. The interest in James Bond is still incredibly high for my blog post and magazine, and it sparked intense debate when there was a chance that the film series would need a new master spy. In returning to the roots of the long-running franchise, it seems that Bond is one of the all-time winners in the endurance stakes.
Hope everyone is having a good summer, with vacation plans and some down time to spend at the movies! Till next time-ML

 

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

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6 Degrees of Film

Happy post-Fourth of July week, readers and moviegoers! We are seeing lots of films debut this month, and I’ve included some of the summaries up front so you can judge for yourself. One of the things that I’m excited about is the line-up on Turner Classic this month, which is showing so many of the great Hitchcock classics in July. Make sure, especially if you haven’t seen them, to set the DVR to record some of the top films: Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds, Notorious, and many more.
Armchair Film Fest: The Hitchcock list of films on TCM is phenomenal. They start with his early silent work and run through his classics all month long. This is definite fodder for the Armchair Film Festival devotee. The Armchair Film Fest is my favorite kind of film festival personally! One thing has always stuck with me in the biography and studies of Hitchcock-Hitchcock was asked about his penchant for horror films, and what his idea of something that was really funny would be. He said that a party where the food was all dyed blue was something that struck him as hilarious. There are some people that are originals. Hitchcock was a one of a kind, unique character in films-one who will never be replicated.
Also on TCM this Saturday, one of the films that is certainly unique, is the comedy with Eleanor Parker, who is remembered as the Baroness in The Sound of Music. She stars with Robert Taylor in Many Rivers to Cross. The film is light and at times a “fluff piece”, but the portrayal of a strong pioneer woman by Parker remains one of the highlights of the era.
Most of the fifties women were at times even sycophantic in their deference to men. Parker plays this role with a gusto and a physical presence that makes it memorable for most women of the 21st Century to relate to the character.
Some of the political films playing this month will also seem tailor made to this era in our political life. They are showing the original The Manchurian Candidate which was thought to have been banned at the time due to the controversial content. It turns out, that wasn’t accurate, but the film wasn’t seen for many years, due to contractual agreements. It is a very gripping 1962 Cold War thriller about a U.S soldier who is captured and brainwashed to be used as a political assassin.
The other film for Armchair Film Fest is Inherit the Wind with Spencer Tracy. I would invite anyone, on the left or right, to watch this great classic with the memorable opening soundtrack pulling the camera back with the folk spiritual “Old Time Religion” playing solemnly as the shot pans to small town, USA . In this case, it’s a small town where the famous Scopes Monkey Trial was held in Dayton, Tennessee, and Tracy delivers one of his best performances as the distinguished lawyer Henry Drummond, who is defending a high school science teacher, (played by Dick York), who was teaching the theory of evolution in his class. The film is powerful, as is the message which is derived from the play of the same name. We are still debating the Evolutionary theory with the creationists defending their viewpoint well into the 21st Century.
What’s Playing: Here’s a quote about the film, Okja, which says a lot. The film has generated a lot of good buzz, but ….”somewhere in here lies a great film wanting to come out” This review and more are featured in this week’s 6 Degrees magazine. Here’s a recap of the plot.
The Plot of Okja: A CEO-played by Tilda Swinton, announces that a new breed of super-pig has been developed. A cross between a pig and a hippotamus has been created with the animal having the disposition of a puppy. The purpose of breeding them is to solve the world’s food shortage, and to create an eco-friendly food source. Twenty-six super pigs are to be grown over a period of ten years as the corporation has a competition. At the end, they will be taken back to America to be hailed as a success.
Okja is the name of the pig raised in South Korea by a young girl, who bonds with the animal. In the end, the film is a cross between Animal Farm, Charlotte’s Web, The Yearling, and a slew of films that come to mind about kids and their pets.
The Big Sick has been getting lots of good reviews. It’s an updated modern-day version of a romantic comedy. The two lovers are star-crossed, with their life situations updated for the modern era. He is a comedian and a Muslim, and she is a WASP. They break up and are reunited when he learns she is sick and going to be placed into a medically-induced coma. At this point, he must confront his deeper feelings for her and reconcile his hostility to commitment with his love for her. And there is comedy! Holly Hunter plays the mother and Ray Romano is the father of the sick girl. So there are laughs to be had along the way. We haven’t seen too many good rom-com’s since When Harry met Sally, so this is a re-fashioned kind of plot for the new age.
Spider-Man:Homecoming has also debuted over the holiday weekend. And Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is reviewed on the Macguffin site, as well as the afore-mentioned films.
Film Comment has a post on The Dirty Dozen, released in 1967. It was a landmark war movie, but not really in the same class as Saving Private Ryan or even The Longest Day. The Stranger, also from 1967, is reviewed and it’s another 1967 release, starring Marcello Mastroianni. Based on The Stranger by Albert Camus, it has rarely been seen since its release, due to distribution rights disputes. It is faithful to the book by Camus, and is generally regarded favorably by critics who’ve seen it.

Baby Driver is still making waves with critics this week. And the independent The Little Hours is reviewed favorably on rogerebert.com.  Will Ferrell’s The House has bombed badly, with a quote in a review reading: “movies require scripts.” Ouch.
Critically Speaking: There’s a podcast from Vanity Fair titled: “How Hollywood Ruined Zombies, According to George A Romero”. And there’s an interesting post from Barron’s: “Is Hollywood Finally Desperate Enough to Give up on Theaters?” The thinking here is that since there is a massive wave of talent and energy moving to the small screen, in the form of Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and others, that eventually it will make more financial sense to release them to the cable pay-tv audience format. To have on-demand movies simultaneously available for the home viewing audience. I hate to tell these people, but we are just about there now. There simply isn’t a lot of lag time from the debut at the theater to the home screen.
Vox has released a list of 50 films that we are supposed to be excited about yet to be released this year. One of my big beefs is with the titles that list this incredible number of films that are supposed to be: the best of the year, the century, the top 50 films in Sci-fi, the top 100 action films, etc. I have a top 100 list of best films in my book, 6 Degrees, but that is from all films-starting at the turn of theth Century. I cannot believe that there are 50 really good films lurking out there waiting to be released this year, but there are a few that I did agree on regarding 2017 releases.
A Ghost Story has been getting good buzz from the Sundance debut. It stars Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck. Dunkirk is coming soon, with Tom Hardy, and directed by Christopher Nolan.
The Dark Tower is the Stephen King adaptation that has been long awaited by fans of the serial novels. Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey star in the horror/fantasy/action/adventure…and oh yes, Western! Epic. Ingrid goes West was another popular Sundance Film Fest release, said to be dark and funny, with Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen. Another Stephen King adaptation is It, releasing on September 8th. The sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle is coming this fall and Colin Firth returns along with Taron Egerton.
Blade Runner 2049 is coming in October, with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Much anticipated, this one is set 30 years after the first film debuted. Also in October, a biopic of the Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, in a courtroom drama depicting one of his biggest cases, defending a black chauffeur accused of sexual assault and attempted murder.
The Holiday Season is anticipated to begin early with Murder on the Orient Express dropping on November 10th. Kenneth Branagh directs the Agatha Christie remake with an all-star cast. Also in November, the indie film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri looks interesting, with a cast including the great Frances McDormand, of Fargo fame.
Pixar has Coco debuting in November, a children’s movie with a cast of Hispanic and Latino actors. But nothing will matter after December 15th, because as everyone knows, Star Wars sucks all the oxygen out of the room! Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuts and that is almost all she wrote. Still….Steven Spielberg is directing a film about the Pentagon Papers, a timely subject for this era where we hear lots of rumbling about the days of Watergate and the sixties. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep star in this one. Opening on Christmas Day: The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman, about the life of P.T. Barnum.
And also at Christmas, the soon to be retiring Daniel Day Lewis is reunited with director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood) in a film called Phantom Thread, set in the world of fashion during the fifties.
That’s a wrap for this week, folks! I’m looking forward to some of these big screen releases, as well as the Hitchcock Armchair Film Fest all this month on TCM. Stay tuned later this week as we offer a complimentary download of my Hitchcock chapter on my 6 Degrees blog site. See you at the movies!