6 Degrees: Friday Flix

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Degrees: The four basic plots

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film

 

There is much talk of the remakes in Hollywood, and the fact that nothing is new under the sun. Well, there’s a lot of truth to that, but then again, Shakespeare used mostly re-hashed material to fashion together some of the greatest works of literature.

So, there’s a lot of “meat on the bone” when you talk of the simple nature of the most basic of storylines. Here are four of the most widely known:

Spartacus

 

  1. Man vs Man: Here we find many variations on a theme, as the plots may tend to run together. But some of the greatest stories deal with adversity between two people or two countries. Spartucus is the story of one man’s rebellion against the Roman Empire. Exodus deals with men and women fighting to establish a home for the Jewish people in the Middle East. Shakespeare’s Henry V deals with men battling to establish who will be the rightful King of England.The Poseidon Adven
  2. Man vs Nature: Jack London was a writer who often dealt with this subject. The Call of the Wild and White Fang are two of his works. But in dealing with the basic elements of nature, we find so many great stories. In Hollywood, there was a whole industry around the “disaster” films such as The Poseidon Adventure, where a huge storm overturned a ship. And The Towering Inferno where man had to face the elements to survive.

The Shining3. Man vs Himself; One of the most complex and intriguing storylines deals with the psychological nature of man. In The Shining, the horror of the story turned inward as we saw the main character slowly go mad. In The Lost Weekend and Leaving Las Vegas, we witness the ways that men can slowly “burn out” with alcoholic binges and start to implode. In Shakespeare’s great works, Hamlet and King Lear, the soliloquies provide a passage into the internal workings of the minds of his most famous characters.

Adams Rib

4. Man vs Woman or The Battle of the Sexes: In this, we spot so many things we can identify with in our own lives. This proves true even in past decades where women were not accorded equal rights under the law, but still were able to hold their own against men based on their intelligence and logic. In Adam’s Rib, we see two lawyers, played by Spencer Tracy & Katherine Hepburn, arguing cases on opposite sides and struggling to maintain their marriage.In Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew , the comedy deals with the battle of the sexes. In Elizabethan England, women were not afforded many rights, however, there was one strong example of leadership seen in Queen Elizabeth I. Good Queen Bess was a strong ruler for many years, and Shakespeare would have had this example before him as he was marketing and tailoring much of his work to please her! There are other examples of stories and plot lines, but it seems the most basic plots are at times the best ones to use when delving into the psyche of a human being, or looking at the quiet desperation and isolation of our lives in the 21st Century. The next time you read a good book or watch a movie, take a moment to reflect on whether it follows one of the basic plots used by the masters. Chances are, if it’s a really good work of art, the story will break it down to the basics.