Hello and welcome to October, Film Fans! This week, 6 Degrees magazine has reviews of the top films at the movies now. A Star is Born has opened to generally good reviews, both for Lady Gaga’s acting and this particular retelling of a story that has been told and retold countless times. The Old Man and the Gun, Robert Redford’s crime caper, has been well received and is reviewed on Ebert.com.Smallfoot, the animated children’s movie, opened to mixed reviews; and Venom was widely anticipated as it features Tom Hardy, an A-list actor. But this movie, so far, seems to have received less than glowing reviews.
Since it’s October, there’s always a run on posts written about horror films, and the biggest horror film debuting in October will be the remake of Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the fold. 6 Degrees has several posts featuring the best horror films of 2018.
And then there are the small screen films in October, including films for the Armchair Film Fest connoisseur. On Turner Classic this month, I was excited to see the 1940 film Night Train to Munich with Rex Harrison in the lineup, as this movie is not widely shown. Hitchcock fans can record The Lady Vanishes and Strangers on a Train, both showing in October. TCM also is showing A Star is Born with Judy Garland from 1954, directed by George Cukor, which received good reviews. Probably all of the “Star is Born” films were received well, with the possible exception of Barbra Streisand’s remake, which seemed to most to be a tad self-indulgent.
Another 6 Degrees classic remake on TCM is The Front Page from 1931, which was remade with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as His Girl Friday in 1940. Both are worth watching, but I always recommend any film that stars Cary Grant. He somehow managed to throw in his real name, Archie Leach, if you can catch it through the fast-paced dialogue in this one.
That’s all for now, friends, so set your VCR’s to record and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML
For those who are disillusioned about politics and America, and America’s place in the world, please remember that we’ll always have Paris. You may have heard that line, and perhaps you don’t know that it’s one of the memorable lines from Casablanca. My personal favorite line in this film is NOT “Play it Again, Sam”, (which was a misquote: The line is: “Play it, Sam!…You played it for her, you can play it for me!”), but the line where Bogie tells someone that he came to Casablanca ‘for the waters.’ When told they were surrounded by desert, he says, “I was….misinformed.”
Casablanca is just one of the memorable films playing this month on Turner ClassicMovies. Last week we mentioned Meet Me in St Louis, which is a great holiday film starring Judy Garland . One of the highlights of the film is Garland singing, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which became one of her signature songs.
Garland is also in the remake of The Little Shop around the Corner, the classic Ernst Lubitsch film with Jimmy Stewart from the thirties. They remade it as a musical, In the Good Old Summertime, with Judy Garland and Van Johnson in the fifties. And then, they remade it again with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. As you can tell, the story is memorable enough to rework, and each of these films did well at the box office.
The plot revolves around two co-workers who compete for sales in a small music shop, and they develop a dislike for each other. Their personal life is marked by a correspondence, (they used to be called ‘pen-pals’ in the old days,) that develops into a romantic courtship.
For each slight given the other, they tell their friends about the wonderful nature of the person that they have met and their developing romance through the mail. Of course, they don’t know what the other looks like. And so, the plot thickens when they agree to meet, and the male in the story realizes that the person he has been dreaming about is the same annoying young woman he works with in the store.
At first, he begins to tease his co-worker, and begins to see that she has also fixated on him as her romantic ideal. From there, he begins to try and develop a friendship with her, and draws her out about her ‘intended.’ The girl eventually does decide that the real flesh and blood person she works with is the one she would choose, and the end has the two pairing up as he reveals his love for her.
The plot plays like a revamped Shakespearean comedy, with twists and turns and sub-plots that lend itself to the final denouement. But the story has proven to be a durable one, as they’ve remade it successfully in three separate variations of the theme. The story in each film starts as a kind of screwball comedy, with mistaken identities and revolving doors, but at the essence of this tale is the sweet and at times, bittersweet nature of love, where the eternal ideal is always at odds with the realities of life. The true meeting of the minds is seen in the final outcome for each of these stories, and the updated versions through the past century of film are worth a view (or two.)
We also talked last week about Lord Jim as a Spiritual film that’s recommended to rent or record. Another great performance from Peter O’Toole that is playing this month on TCM is My Favorite Year. The movie would never have worked without the over-the-top character of O’Toole parodying his own legendary capers and drunken displays. This is a good film for the holidays and for those old enough to appreciate the air of nostalgia that surrounds the main characters and the plot.
There’s an Armchair Film Festival waiting for those who love Hitchcock: Rear Window, with Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart, and North by Northwest with Cary Grant are both on TCM this month. These two movies showcase Hitchcock in top form. The paranoia and slightly dark and deviant world that he hints at or alludes to at times is seen just peeking through enough in these two films to make them more than merely interesting.
For those who have never seen Albert Brooks on film, I would recommend hitting record for Modern Romance. Brooks has a droll way of delivering a line that no one else has been able to achieve. The closest I can think of in comparison is W C Fields. Both comics talk about the situations at hand, and at the same time they seem to comment on the state of the world and their own sly and paranoid asides and thought experiments tend to lend a totally different meaning to the spoken word. Watch the master at work in Modern Romance on TCM.
Finally, for some of the greatest repartee ever filmed, the Thin Man Series with William Powell and Myrna Loy is playing on TCM around New Years. Start the New Year the right way and record these two in action. They are funny and droll, they’re stylish and entertaining and witty as well as being perfect foils for each other in this series of films.
Hope everyone is enjoying their holidays and taking time to see a movie or two. I’m looking forward to The Shape of Water, and of course, the latest Star Wars film is about to drop in the next week. The other films that have been well received are Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,Wonder, and The Disaster Artist. Till next week, see you at the movies-ML
Hello to all film fans! This week we begin with the scandals that are rocking Hollywood.
Hollywood Buzz: On the Weinstein sexual harassment and abuse; the dominoes are cascading, and women are not tolerating this anymore. From the Roger Ebert site we feature in 6 Degrees magazine the piece: Why I stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies…. I have written about Allen in the past. His films are considered classics, especially many of his earlier ones. And I have a particular fondness for films like Hannah and her Sisters, which is showing on TCM this month. But over time, Woody Allen’s past behavior and the current climate have made his work toxic and his “brand” as they say, is as unpalatable as Bill Cosby’s and his ilk. So it’s not surprising to see more and more women particularly, coming out with this opinion about Woody Allen. Going forward, I don’t see anything that would turn this around. He is another sad commentary on a time long past where this behavior can just be overlooked with a wink and a nod. As Dylan told us, The Times They are a Changin.’ We have to get on board. Casablanca Returns to theaters for the 75th Anniversary of the release of this classic. (Here is the 6 Degrees review.) Recommended:The Florida Project has seen excellent reviews. Thor: Ragnorak has been well reviewed if you are a comic book movie fan, and for the small screen, they are screening some classic Hitchcock films on TCM this week, including Vertigo and RearWindow. At the movies, Captain Underpants is playing for kids, and The MountainBetween us with Kate Winslet and Idris Elba is recommended if you haven’t seen this one yet.
It’s time for my I’ll be the judge of that skepticism: Some of the articles on film have such overblown claims in their titles. The reason I can actually affirm this is that, unlike many who just glance at the headlines, I actually READ many of these lists that people put out as containing the best movies, the best genres, the most under-rated or over-rated films of ALL time! And I never agree with the entire list, but at times, there are some films that I do agree about when I think they’ve hit the right note. That’s why I groan at the end of the year “Best of” lists and the upcoming awards season where films are placed into categories. Rarely does any one year contain several masterpieces. And as those of us who love films agree, as time goes by, the works of many great filmmakers come to be appreciated more and more.
I believe that the film, Her is a great barometer for our times. And some of the greatest actors probably haven’t been acknowledged for their best work, which is found in films that most people have never seen! Tom Hardy is one actor I would recommend and should be on the list to binge watch his past films. Clive Owen and Russell Crowe are also great actors with filmographies containing many under-appreciated gems. (Try to rent Bent, The Sum of Us, Proof, and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead) 6 Degrees upcoming Holiday Films Newsletter: On the subject of lists, there are some of the children’s Christmas movies to watch with your kids recommended this week: They include: Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas from 1999; Rudolph the Red NosedReindeer from 1998, The Santa Clause from 1994; the Remake of Miracle on 34th street from 1994 and Home alone from 1990. These are a few that are fairly good, as well as Elf and the original Miracle on 34th Street, which is a true classic.
Coming Soon: Stay tuned for the HUGE avalanche of Star Wars marketing and film reviews for the December release of the next entry in the saga… Also, The Post is coming soon, directed by Stephen Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film is about the newspaper business and the history of the journalism done in the wake of the Vietnam War and the release of the Pentagon Papers.
That’s it for this week. There are some great films coming soon that we are excited about, as well as the Holiday Film Newsletter to watch for…Till then, see you at the movies!-ML
Hello to all Film Fans & Friends! The good news, surprising to some of us, is that Dunkirk has opened to really good reviews. It’s short-107 minutes -Thank God! (Spare me from the overly long Summer serial movies recently that have begged for good editing!). So that’s a pleasant surprise… And the Planet of the Apes film has also gotten surprisingly good reviews. There is always hope that we’ll salvage a fairly blah summer film season.
Wonder Woman has continued to rake in the money. But there comes a point in the summer film season when we start to desperately look around for some good films on the horizon. And there are usually these great little hidden gems of cinema that are a big reason why many of us continue to watch movies.
6 Degrees Magazine: This week, check out these articles online. There’s an article about Director Werner Herzog’s masterpiece of a documentary Burden of Dreams, which is about the making of the film Fitzcarraldo in 1982.
Critically Speaking: As mentioned, the reviews for Dunkirk and War for the Planet of the Apes have been good. Also, there’s The Big Sick, with a supporting cast that includes Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, so that has garnered interest and hope that the Rom-Com’s are not dead (simply in need of a 21st Century upgrade!).
The Indie Film:The Little Hours is reviewed on the macguffin film site as well as the sci-fi film from director Luc Besson,Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Film Comment also has a post on the Valerian film, which is based on a popular French graphic novel series entitled Valerian and Laureline by Pierre Christin and Jean-ClaudeMezieres.Film Comment calls the series of books a “travesty of storytelling”, and says the film itself is “bereft of narrative tension” but instead functions “strictly as spectacle.” Valerian reviews as a whole have been mixed, so this explains it as good as any other reason I’ve heard. Rolling Stone has a film review of Valerian with the lead: “Luc Besson makes a Sci-Fi Mess.”
We’ve already mentioned War for the Planet of the Apes, which has garnered good reviews after suffering through a few stumbles in the past with some duds in the continuing “ape” series. There’s a film out called Endless Poetry, from an 88 year old Chilean-French filmmaker which has been getting good reviews.
And finally, Lady Macbeth is reviewed on Ebert.com, and focuses on the performance from the 21- year old lead Florence Pugh. It’s worthy to note that Lady Macbeth is NOT based on the Shakespearean character, but instead comes from a Russian novella by Nikolai Leskov titled “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk”, a book centering on ways women were suppressed and stifled in the 19th century. (It makes a difference!)
Notable Deaths: There’s an interview from Film Comment featured in our magazine done recently with the late Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for his supporting role in Ed Wood. And the other recent passing was of the much-admired Horror Director GeorgeRomero, famous for the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead film, as well as the many spawns of that classic: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and many others, including the TV series from 1983,Tales from the Darkside.
Well, till we meet again film goers. I’m excited about the films coming soon (Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is one) and the great Armchair Film Festival offerings from Turner Classic.Hitchcock lovers have had a fantastic month in July if they tuned in and recorded the entire catalog of Hitchcock classics. One of my favorite lines will always be from Notorious, when Madame Sebastian learns her son has married a spy. She quietly lights a cigarette and tells him, “We are saved by the enormity of yourstupidity.” I have truly come to adore that line, and try to apply it to my own life whenever possible. See you at the movies!-ML
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 MarcelloMastroianni. 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 LittleHours 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 PentagonPapers, 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!
Hello from my writing conference in Orlando, dear readers, so the Friday Flix is going to post on Saturday this week-in keeping with the topsy turvy nature of the “biz” that we write about!
There has been a lot of “buzz” about the failure of Tom Cruise’s The Mummy and the success of Gal Gadot/Patty JenkinsWonder Woman. There was talk of the fact that Gadot had made much less for her appearance in Wonder Woman than the Superman actor (Henry Cavill) did, which has been partially debunked.
There’s a new trailer for the upcoming Blade Runner 2049 which looks good. Another tidbit from Hollywood was that Ron Howard has taken over the reins and is directing the Hans Solo Star Wars film, after the directors unexpectedly left the project.
Here’s a short list from our online magazine, 6 Degrees, featuring reviews from some classics being shown on Turner Classic this month, with a couple of articles that list the best of Hitchcock, which is hard to do.
Reviews for Hitchcock….TCM has featured several Hitchcock classics, including RearWindow. There’s a review on 6 Degrees, and a piece with some interesting facts about the movie. And if you have never seen this list, go to the National Film Registry-the link on our site will give you the full list. The important work they do is vital to preserve the films of the early 20th Century that have been fading over time. The list grows each year as more and more films are added and acknowledged to be classics decades after their release. A must see for all movie buffs!
As the month draws to a close, there’s a post reviewing Audrey Hepburn’sFunny Face. She is a movie star that cannot be replicated, and her films are still extraordinarily fun to watch. This one is a period piece, and although it’s kind of a “chick flick”, the colors and vibrancy of the cinematography make it not only a great fashion film, but a good old-fashioned date night movie, if only to be seen at the art houses or on the small screen.
What’s Playing: Transformers: Didn’t get universally good reviews, and in fact they were decidedly mixed. The Beguiled:6 Degreesfeatures an interview from Film Comment with Sofia Coppola, the director of the film. The Beguiled is not only a remake of an earlier Clint Eastwood film, it’s also adapted from a novel by Thomas P Cullinan. FilmComment also has reviews for Beatriz at Dinner, Baby Driver and Rough Night with Scarlett Johansson. The Rough Night review starts with “Dying is easy, comedy ishard”…so I’d say there’s been some mixed reaction to this comedy, also. Finally, there’s favorable reviews for the dark comedy, The Big Sick.
There is an interesting interview with Bernard Tavernier on French cinema: A quote from Tavernier: “If by ‘auterist’ you mean that the director is the author of the film, I agree. If it means that you have to forget the importance of screenwriters, D.P’s, composers, I’m not an auterist” (I agree-there’s been a debate raging for decades on the importance of the director as “auteur” within the film critics community).
A new book is out that looks good: It’s about the wonderfully weird world of drive-inmovies from a bygone era. The subject is explored in “Opening Wednesday at a Theateror Drive-In Near You” So many film books of late have focused on the new “Golden Age” of cinema that was from the late sixties and into the seventies. This book takes a look at the type of “Bad-B’ cinema that was usually featured at a drive-in. Those of us “of a certain age” will remember the very fifties practice of going to the drive-in movie and watching films with our parents, and later with friends and with dates as we sat beneath a canopy of stars in cars with open windows. It really is a by-gone era.
We are now in a different era, as my book, 6 Degrees of Film noted in the quarter century of Star Wars that has dominated the culture and our movies for the last decades of the 20th Century and into the 21st.
Other reviews from RogerEbert.com online are for Maudie; Once Upon a Time in Venice with Bruce Willis and The Book of Henry. Incidentally, the latter has been dubbed by some critics as one of the worst movies of the decade.
We are now steaming into the Summer Blockbuster Season as we gear up for the rollouts of the big July 4th weekend. Several critics have released the “Best of” for 2017, and it seems a bit premature to speak of as there hasn’t really been a stellar movie season in quite a while.
However, Will Ferrell is touting his new comedy, The House and Christopher Nolan’s big feature, Dunkirk are coming soon, so we will see what the next few weeks will bring. Have fun on your summer vacations, and see you at the movies!-ML
So…is the movie Good or Bad? That is the question coming from one spot-on commentator in our 6 Degrees magazine from this past week asking about the reviews for the film “Ghost in the Shell” with Scarlett Johansson. There are plenty of mixed reviews for this one, and the consensus was that they used the term “whitewash” to the extent that the film was buried somewhere in the lead….
But the bottom line is that all that may be overcome if the film has good “buzz”. And this film did not. There are plenty of reviews out there that are mixed for most of the films. It’s always a question of the audience preferences, and there have been several films in recent years that have bombed in the U.S. and done quite well overseas
Some examples are: John Carter; The Golden Compass; After Earth; Poseidon; Water World; The Wolverine and Pacific Rim. Some films don’t hold up well, some are big hits but fade fast from memory. The dirty little secret we all must concede is that film reviews are highly subjective, and with the amount of film blogs and posts out there, you can usually find even the worst reviewed film with at least one critic who actually likes it!
The other comment comes from Sir Smoke regarding the posit from an article stating that New Horror films are better than ever….Sir Smoke simply said, “No.New Horror Sucks”. I couldn’t agree more. As someone who was raised on Hitchcock…and with the idea that the best elements of horror are found in the simplest of details, some of the latest horror films don’t seem to rely on the simple ingredients that made Hitchcock the master of suspense. These details, the things that make for the best components that create horror in the mind and on the screen are somehow lacking in most of the new age horror films.
Simple elements of suspense are found in all of Hitchcock and in films like The Portrait of Dorian Gray, The Tingler, Carnival of Souls or George C.Scott’s 1980 film, The Changeling. In this latter one, the simple act of rolling a small red ball down a flight of stairs is listed in ‘The Horror Digest” blog as one of the scariest moments on film. Such a simple act and yet…the horror!
On Critical Thinking: There’s a piece called, “Just review the Damn movie” this month that speaks to a lot of the political correctness surrounding recent films with issues such as diversity and whitewashing. Some of the films that are striving to portray women and people of color or those in the LGBT community with dignity and accuracy are at odds with most of the history of film. And for that matter, the history of the United States and the rest of the planet as well!
There are some big problems facing Hollywood these days. These are addressed in a piece from 6 Degrees Magazine written by Bill Mechanic, the CEO of Pandemonium Films and featured on Deadline.com. The problems surrounding what has become the Hollywood machine includes top executives leaving the major studios like Paramount and Sony. The “Tent-Pole Films” (Defined as films that are big expensive draws for global audiences and are designed to spawn multiple sequels) are not producing the results in many cases that were expected. Big, expensive movies that flop after huge amounts, hundreds of millions of dollars are poured into the making of them, mean that somebody’s head will roll when the bottom line looks bleak.
The phrase for some of these less than promising films is the “get-around-to it” movies-meaning you’ll get around to seeing them on Netflix or the small screen. We’ve all seen plenty of films in that category…
The changing nature of the business is part of the entire work force that has to adapt to change. Disney has proven to be a major Disruptor by taking much of the market share. They have bet on big brands, Pixar and Star Wars plus MarvelStudios, and it has become harder for other studios to compete. It’s become in essence the Wal-Mart effect for the Movie Industry.
Is the movie business in denial, as one writer from The Verge posted recently? Some six of the seven major Hollywood studios are negotiating to release their films on home video barely three weeks after the theatrical release date. Virtual Reality is another focus for the business, with major theaters touting the VR experience as a way to counter slumping ticket sales. This is part of the aforementioned long-term trending. The idea that most brick and mortar buildings now housing movie theaters may become akin to the arcades of old, with other entertainment options featured along with films, is now taking hold. This may be the wave of the future…
The Armchair Film Fest: For the month of April, there are some great films to set your designated machine to record: Recommended are The Miracle Worker, Hannah and her sisters, Ivanhoe, Harvey, The Set Up, A Hard Day’s Night, Funny Girl, Please Don’t eat the Daisies and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Watch the 6 Degrees magazine for reviews on these films if you’ve never seen them…
All of these films are on Turner Classic, which is great because there’s no commercial interruptions. One other noticeable difference on the Turner Classic site is that they’ve finally said goodbye to Movie Morlocks and have an upgraded blog site: Streamline, which has a much cleaner look and some interesting reviews- the short films of Harold Lloyd and Wuthering Heights vs Jane Eyre-all featured on our 6 Degrees Magazine site this week.
Two master film makers are mentioned in a post about the most difficult scenes to film Director Stanley Kubrick did one small scene in “The Shining” over 148 takes. But Chaplin was most notorious for his perfectionist style-one scene in “City Lights”, just a short time on the screen, took him an astonishing 340 times for the girl to say the line, “Flower, sir?” to Chaplin. Food for thought the next time the boss demands your attention to detail!
Finally, the magazine features reviews of Barbarella with Jane Fonda, FrancisFord Coppola’s first major picture, Finian’s Rainbow, The Zookeeper’s Wife and Going in Style (the latter didn’t get great reviews).
There’s a post listing the best films of Al Pacino, and one piece on the many plot holes found in Marvel pictures. Those who read me regularly can see me smiling, as we all know that the main reason for Marvel pictures isn’t to tie up loose endings and create logical plot points!
There’s also a post that lists the best films about World War I, in honor of America’s 100th Anniversary of our entrance into WWI. The one thing I do take issue with is the inclusion of one of my favorite films: Lawrence of Arabia. Although it’s true that the film does depict war scenes and occurs during WWI, this film isn’t really part of the European war that was fought on the continent. So technically, it may be included, but it’s not one that immediately springs to mind when I think about the Great War. Galipoli, Sergeant York, and Paths of Glory yes-but not Lawrence!
I’m thinking about the Summer Movies a bit early this year. Some look very promising, and we’ll talk more about them in the coming weeks. Also recommended is a good book on film- Talking Pictures-by the Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday.
I’ll be back next time with more of the latest from the La La Land of filmdom. Till then, see you at the movies!-ML
Tampa Theatre has released their Summer Film Series. I was a bit disappointed with the selections this year, but there are a few notables coming… These are the ones I would recommend as “must see” theatre viewing for those who’ve never seen them on the big screen. Forbidden Planet is coming in June. A campy science fiction classic, this one was made in the heyday of fifties Golden Age studio films. The plot loosely follows the story of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with Walter Pidgeon playing the Prospero part (Dr. Morbius) and his daughter, played by the ingénue Anne Francis. Leslie Nielson is in a perfectly straight role pre-Airplane, starring as the astronaut-hero who is out to stop the madness and woo the girl. Robby the Robot is the memorable sci-fi staple, and the movie is filmed in gorgeous fifties Cinemascope color. Notorious is one of Hitchcock’s best films. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman give memorable performances in this classic thriller. One of the greatest lines in film history is delivered by Madame Sebastian, the cold and calculating mother of villainous Claude Rains. “You are protected by the enormity of your stupidity” is the classic line. Never has a put-down been delivered with such precision and flair. The Wizard of Oz is a film that everyone should see on the big screen. There has never been anything to match it in art and simplistic style. It still easily makes the top ten lists of most of the film critics worth their salt. Casablanca is another film that stays with you. It’s a classic B-movie, with another memorable performance from Ingrid Bergman. But this film belongs to Bogart. It’s his signature role and he achieves iconic film status in the part of the loner Rick, who hides his secrets and his sentiments from the world in his café in Casablanca.
These films were made for big-screen viewing, and if you have the time, should be seen in the theatre. It’s definitely my opinion, (which is shared by many veteran critics), that most of the films made in the modern era can’t touch these cinema classics.
Here’s the schedule for these classics at Tampa Theatre. I have to note that this is not the complete line up, but rather the line up from 6 Degrees of the films worth seeing at the movies! Drop me a line to give me your line up of films that should be seen in the theatre. I’ve got a list & definitely have opinions as to which films make the cut.
Sunday June 26: Forbidden Planet review Sunday July 10: Notorious review Sunday Sep 4: Wizard of Oz Casablanca Sep 18th: Casablanca
Vertigo was released in 1958 to a mixed reception. It was later heralded as one of Hitchcock’s greatest works. It’s a complex, psychological thriller starring the venerable James Stewart, a Hitchcock favorite along with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Vertigo was part of a nine-picture deal that Hitchcock made in the fifties that included many of his most famous films like Rear Window, North byNorthwest, Psycho and To Catch a Thief.
*Hitchcock was an early master in the art of Marketing a Movie. He marketed Pyscho brilliantly, and refused to allow reporters to see advance drafts of the film. He had a trailer for the film where he teases audiences by taking them on a tour through the Bates Motel and he followed that up with his famous decree to theatre owners stipulating that patrons were not allowed into the theatre once the film began. This unusual practice both intrigued and piqued the moviegoers interest.
Hitch’s TV Show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” was further proof of his marketing savvy. He not only designed the signature silhouette of himself, he even picked the opening music for the series. The now familiar strains of Gounod’s“The Funeral March of the Marionette”are forever associated with Alfred Hitchcock Presents….
When the idea of a television show was first proposed to Hitchcock, he was hesitant. But he agreed after he was allowed to introduce each episode and also given script supervision. Not only was Hitchcock given a platform to promote his upcoming films, but he also was allowed to make fun of television and advertising, which further delighted both him and his audience.
Hitch highlighted his own paranioa in films like Vertigo and North by Northwest. He had a fear of being stopped by the police and therefore he didn’t drive a car.
*Hitchcock had a sense of humor that was highly unusual. His favorite dinner party was one where the food was entirely blue. Hosted in the thirties for the actress Gertrude Lawrence. Hitchcock said of the dinner, “”Even when you broke your roll. It looked like a brown roll but when you broke it open it was blue. Blue soup, thick blue soup. Blue trout. Blue chicken. Blue ice cream.”…..
Notoriousis one of Hitchcocks best films. Why? Not because of the well-known movie stars that grace the film. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are at the top of their game, but ironically, it’s not their performances that stand out in this movie.
In Notorious, Cary Grant’s character is that of a cynical and slightly skewed personality. He comes off as a tad less than his characteristically perfect self. The Ingrid Bergman character is one of a fallen woman. She’s the girl who’s “been around the block”. She’s seen it all, done it all and is not a candidate for the illusion of true love.
Yet, one of the most memorable lines in Notorious is delivered by an obscure Austrian actress named Leopoldine Konstantin. She plays the well-developed Hitchock-ian role of the obsessively dominant mother figure. Not only does she delivers one of the greatest lines in all of Hitchcock, it could be considered as one of the definitive cuts of all time
While the portrayal of Mothers in film usually conspire to be in a nurturing and protective role, as was so often the case with Hitchcock, the image of Mom is turned on its head. In this instance, “Mother” is someone who might give Lady MacBeth reason to pause, as the mom in Notorious is by far the more ruthless and calculating of villains in the piece. . That’s saying a lot, as the characters in the film are part of a group of Nazi sympathizers.
Hitchcock was well known for the type of woman/mother figure portrayed by Madame Sebastian. In Marnie., the character of Tippi Hedrin’s mother was responsible for her young daughter’s psychotic behavior. In The Birds, Tippi Hedrin was again plagued by the domineering and darkly possessive mother figure. Then comes Psycho, with the most famously disturbed mother/son duo since Oedipus. In so many Hitchcock classics, we see a different image of a Mom; one who is less than sweet as apple pie in most cases. Such was the world of Hitchcock.
The line Madame Sebastian delivers is to her own son, Sebastian/Claude Rains, who comes to her in anguish over the discovery that his new wife, Alicia/Ingrid Bergman, is in fact a spy. Frightened of the ruthless gang of Nazi cohorts he is entwined with, he comes to ask his Mother, Madame Sebastian, for advice.
Madame Sebastian pauses a moment to light a cigarette, the perfect bit of “business” that lends credence to her next statement. She then tells her son that all is not lost. Why? Because, she says, “You are protected by the enormity of your stupidity-for a time .” It’s then up to dear old Mom to come up with the idea of slowly poisoning Alicia.
The line works so well because it is played in such a matter of fact manner and given just the right amount of understatement to make the subsequent actions so completely evil.
And now, so many years later, I am reminded from time to time of the cool and utterly ruthless cut given to Claude Rains. Most of the time, it’s a self-deprecating phrase I use to put myself in my place. And it’s a saying that works every time.
“No worries, my dear, you are saved by the enormity of your stupidity” It translates to mean that no-one could possibly fathom the thought that such a colossal mistake could be made. The Peter Principle in effect applies here. The notion that one almost always rises to the level of their complete incompetence. Of course no-one believes you are THAT incompetent! That is your saving grace…
It is the type of clever cut that never fails to make its mark. Perhaps, as put-downs go, it is one of the truly great ones.. In the end, we are all protected by the enormity of our stupidity!
Notorious is playing at Tampa Theatre this Sunday, July 10th at 3:00 pm.