6 Degrees of Film Book Excerpt: About the Oscars

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6 Degrees of Film

 

The following is an excerpt from my book: 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village-published in 2013-MLJ
One of my biggest beefs is that even in the twenty-first century
the Academy Awards show looks a lot like a holdout from a
bygone era. The glitz and glamour are not as believable when
there is so much more to the film industry in the modern era.
The age of computer imaging and video games and the type
of sophisticated special effects used in modern films are barely
acknowledged. Little mention is given to the separate awards
ceremony held for the scientific and technical awards.
James Cameron invented a new method of filmmaking, and
George Lucas and others initiated many breakthroughs in the
way we see things on film. But none of these accomplishments
are honored. New categories should be created to acknowledge
these developments so they can be brought to the public’s
attention.

The global village of filmmaking is compartmentalized
into one or two categories of short films and the foreign film
category. Even though Slumdog Millionaire won several Oscars
in 2009, the film is treated as if none of that ever happened.
The encapsulated world of Hollywood elites still appears to be
fairly homogenized (barring a few obligatory jokes about Jews
in Hollywood). The only nod to the changing of the guard
was in 2010 when Barbra Streisand handed the Best Director
award to a woman (Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker) for the
first time, and when Halle Berry, the first African American
woman to receive the Best Actress award, acknowledged
Hattie McDaniels and all of the women of color who had
come before her.
If Hollywood and filmmaking are a large part of the
American persona, and this show is one of our best chances
to advertise our unique and diverse American way of life,
then why doesn’t Hollywood pull out all the stops on these
occasions? Instead, the powers-that-be in Hollywood present a
timid and tepid tribute to films in a way they have done many
times before. Shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement of
innovation? To my mind, that is “the stuff that dreams are
made of,” which Bogart spoke of so long ago.

6 Degrees: Notes on the Academy Awards

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Greetings Film Fans: The broadcast is coming soon for the Oscars, and the controversy over the decision to not include the cinematography categories during the live show has been resolved. This is the SECOND major controversy that has been addressed in the post Me-Too and whitewash era that the Academy (of old white dudes) has had to address.
This crisis is specifically one that will just address the 1% attitude that some of the awards are more important than others, and admittedly, many are more popular than these awards if you are not in the ‘biz’,as they say. But for the arbitrary decision to be made, for a numbers game of ratings to reduce the show’s time by simply eliminating some of the work that these people have been doing for decades and dismissing the categories as not important enough seems to be callous beyond belief. So many people objected, including an impassioned Russell Crowe, as well as prominent directors and others, that this had to be reversed.

The Green Book 2019
So the favorites are still The Green Book and Glenn Close for Best Actress in The Wife. Other than that, it seems to be pretty wide and open. It would be amazing to see Spike Lee receive the first Best Director award for BlackkKlansman. And Christian Bale did phenomenal work in Vice that may also be a shoo-in. However, although I’ve complained for years about the awards ceremony, the length, the need for new categories, I will still watch it to see what happens.
You never know if they’ll call out the WRONG picture for Best Picture category?! Stay tuned for Oscar News, as we wrap up awards season in La La Land. Some stand out articles in 6 Degrees magazine this week: A piece on the films of the French New Wave cinema and one on the late great film critic Pauline Kael.
Till next time friends, stay cool (in the movie theatre) and see you next time at the movies!-ML

*Love and Longing through the Lens of the New Wave

*What she said: The Art of Pauline Kael

6 Degrees: Awards Season is here!

 

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6 Degrees of Film

Hello Film Fans! The Awards season is here. Some of the big winners so far have been The Green Book, The Favourite, Roma and A Star is Born, with the latter two also receiving multiple Oscar nominations. Black Panther was recognized in the Academy’s Best Picture category, and Glenn Close is the favorite for Oscar’s Best Actress award with her performance in The Wife.

The Sundance Film Festival is under way and Robert Redford emphasized diversity in his opening remarks. Hollywood has been particularly sensitive to this subject with the controversies of ‘white-washing’ in films about people of color, as well as the lack of diversity in female directors, critics and writers and the ongoing under-representation of women in the industry.

Although some of you may have read from time to time my complete lack of enthusiasm for the comic-book genre as a whole, there have been some great movies within the genre over the years. I have always maintained that a writer as great as a Shakespeare (or a Lin-Manuel Miranda), could take a traditional story and spin it into a great film or work of art. That happened in the case of Shakespeare using the re-worked and well-worn stories of his era and creating great classics. The following short list includes some of the best of the super-hero genre:

 

Superman (1978) with Christopher Reeve
Batman (1989) with Jack Nicholson/Michael Keaton
Iron Man I (2008)
Spiderman I (2002)
The Dark Knight (2008)

ben cumberbatch dr strange

Doctor Strange (2016)

black panther 2018
Black Panther (2018)

Some of the super-hero films to look for in 2019 include a new Spider-Man sequel to the 2017 Homecoming titled Spiderman: Far from Home with Tom Holland as Spidey; Avengers: Endgame is out in April and the plot is said to be ‘murky’-perhaps muddled may be closer to the truth. Shazam!, released in April also, should be lighthearted and fun with Zachary Levi debuting the character of a 14 year old boy who turns into the adult superhero.

One film with great trailers that might be a sleeper is The Kid who Would be King which is a new spin on the Arthurian legend of the Sword in the Stone. It’s reviewed in 6 Degrees Magazine this week, along with reviews of Glass (No 1 at the box office last week), and one of my favorite films, The Lion in Winter-recommended for your small screen ‘must-see’ movie list.

Lion in Winter 1968

With the Oscars coming up, and winter weather closing in, it’s a good time to pull out your Armchair Film Fest Movie list and settle in to watch some classics. Till next time, see you at the movies!

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello Film Fans! Hope everyone is staying well and beginning to get in the Christmas mood with holiday shopping and Christmas movies playing on cable at all hours of the day. This month on Turner Classic, there are some good ‘mood movies’ to help you get in the Christmas spirit.

TCM for the Holidays: The Christmas films we recommend are The Shop Around the Corner and In the Good Old Summertime. We have a list of recommended viewing in Holiday Film News with the Christmas film breakdown. Some other films for lighthearted comedy include the Laurel & Hardy film fest and the Cary Grant film fest.

Also on TCM this month are some Steve McQueen films we recommend: The Getaway and The Thomas Crown Affair and a surprisingly spiritual entry from John Wayne: Three Godfathers.

6 Degrees Magazine features some films we anticipate for Winter of 2019. Plus, the Oscar predictions for Best Actress awards for 2018 are listed. We even include a piece on those schmaltzy Hallmark Christmas movies! (Some of them are actually pleasingly watchable, I do admit.)

 

The Golden Globe Nominations are out, which is an indicator for some of the Oscar nominees in the major categories. And in other award related news, we find that Kevin Hart was in as Oscar Host and out in less than 24 hours after some homophobic tweets from the comedian surfaced. This tells us we are not going back in the age of “Me Too” especially in the Hollywood Global film world

Mary queen of scots 2018

At the Movies: Ralph Breaks the Internet and Mary Queen of Scots reviews are included in the magazine, as well as a favorable piece on the new Spider-verse film; Spider Man: Into the Spider Verse.

Finally we reach the end of the year with the lists of “Best of” 2018 films that will inevitably surface. This has been a good year, but not a great year for releases, so we will see which films are going to make the cut.

Stay tuned for my list of best films, which will encompass the best of the past two decades. That list will give us an idea of where we are headed and in the scope and range of Hollywood which now includes the global reach of films and filmmakers, there are some films that will always emerge as gems that may be under appreciated when they were first released. Have fun and stay tuned as we begin to head into the holiday season. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Oscar News

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Oscar News

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

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

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

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

On the Academy Awards

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

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

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

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

Oscar Selfie pix

Movies of the 21st Century

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

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

shape of water 17

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

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

 

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6 Degrees of Film

 

Sign up for 6 Degrees Friday Flix

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

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

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

This week, there’s still some controversy about the Oscars show that
somehow managed to crash land the ending of a perfectly decent show. And then we found out that the ratings were abysmal, so perhaps it’s better to just go back to the drawing board and be glad more people didn’t see the fiasco at the end of the evening! And on a sad note, the beloved figure for movie buffs, Robert Osborne, a man who was the urbane and dapper host of Turner Classic Movies for many years, died recently. He will be missed. Here’s some of what’s happening atthe movies, found in the magazine-Six Degrees of Film online:

The Upcoming Dates for Festivals: Noir City: Will be held March 24
to April 2 in Hollywood- Two of the best Noirs featured: This Gun for
Hire & Ministry of Fear.

For the Armchair Film Fest: The Annual TCM Classic Film Festival:
April 6 to April 9th: Make ‘Em Laugh: Comedy in the Movies: Born
Yesterday, The Graduate; High Anxiety, Postcards from the Edge, What’s
Up, Doc? are just a few of the classic comedies featured.

Books on Film: The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies-Hollywood welcomes innovation, but it also controls it” is a quote from book author, David Bordwell. He writes about the fact that, although the times we are living in are extremely disruptive, the film industry has actually encouraged the Hollywood machine to remain fairly consistent in terms of the style and the production techniques used in film from the early years. Bordwell argues that the Hollywood  model of mass market theatrical filmmaking is continuing with traditions that emerged as early as 1917. The norms of the actual process of filmmaking have remained fairly stable, as the mores and styles have changed through the years. In the book I wrote in 2013, 6 Degrees of Film, many of these same ideas parallel those of Bordwell’s The Way Hollywood Tells It. The films of the modern era are very much in league with the styles and filmmaking techniques that emerged in the early classics and during the Golden Age of Cinema.

Robert Osborne: Goodbye to a genuine Good Guy. Osborne had written the definitive history of the Oscars, and was once an actor himself. But his legacy is one that made him a beloved fixture at Turner Classic Movies, where he introduced feature films for decades.

Recommended: A great piece in The Hollywood Reporter has been written on the origins of how the original King Kong came into being. It’s called, “Origin of ‘Kong’: The Unbelieveable True Backstory of Hollywood’s Favorite Giant Ape“, and it’s centered around a real life explorer and filmmaker named Merian C. Cooper, who ended up at RKO with the legendary David O. Selznick. Selznick came up with the name, King Kong, by the way.

Of Note: There’s a piece on Dr. Strangelove, one of our favorite films. At this period in our history, Strangelove seems strangely prescient suddenly. There’s more on the continuing Oscar drama surrounding “”envelope-gate”. And coming soon to the 16th Annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York, The Godfather cast members will reunite. That should be worth the wait.

What Critics are Saying About: I don’t feel at Home in this World Anymore- has been given glowing reviews by critics. The unusual choice of the worst Best Picture “Snubs” from the past two decades is another list that is interesting. There are reviews for all 9 of the Best Picture nominees for 2017 found in our magazine. An interesting, but a bit in the weeds piece, again from David Bordwell, on the early history of Cinema, is one where he explains the static camera style of the early days of cinematography, the “tableau” style. The issue surrounding this is how the techniques of storytelling developed in films in the early period-before 1920, when films were still silent. Bordwell explores the style in detail in this article from his site.

Reviews for: Get Out has been getting positive reviews; Kong: Skull Island has had many good reviews, but there are some mixed opinions on this one; Beauty and the Beast has debuted with favorable reviews; Moonlight, the best picture winner (eventually), has also garnered mostly favorable reviews. The Ottoman Lieutenant, although praised for its visuals, has been garnering poor or lukewarm reviews owing primarily to a weak script. Logan has been garnering good reviews. And finally, there’s a list in our magazine of the best Vampire movies of all time. If you’re a fan, check it out.

Best of the Web: Check out these sites on the web. Some of the best articles are found on The Hollywood Reporter, NPR (National Public Radio), the L.A. Times and Davidbordwell.net.

One of the titles that caught my eye was “Films for Intelligent Audiences“. Of course, readers, you are all intelligent, and although I don’t agree with many of the films listed, the concept is a good one. Hollywood and filmmakers in general need to make MORE films for Intelligent Audiences. Some of the films that I did agree about that were on this list include Inception and The Big Short, Fight Club, Prestige, The Matrix, GoneGirl, and Memento. The idea is that we should promote and applaud more films that make us think and take us out of ourselves by challenging our intellect. These are the films that will be remembered a generation from now.

Here’s to the films that challenge us. See you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film: Friday Flix

Lately, I’ve been talking about the problems in the Oscar broadcast, as well as the mentality of the entire Academy of Motion Pictures. Other problems are cited this week in a piece from 6 Degrees Magazine talking about the obscure Best Picture winners that nobody sees. Moonlight is no exception. It’s the second lowest-grossing winner in history (The Hurt Locker is first!) Spotlight and The Artist were also box office failures. Which doesn’t mean they aren’t good films, or that they will not eventually be recognized. But five of the past eight winners were rather obscure, little known films. There seems to be a pattern emerging here, as I mentioned last week. The Academy needs to rethink their criteria for judging these films, as well as the categories they’ve set up.

What Critics are saying aboutMarch Movies that are being released to DVD or coming to the small screen in 2017 include: Memento; Blazing Saddles; Jurassic Park; This is Spinal Tap; Pete’s Dragon; The BFG; Who Framed Roger Rabbit; The Life Aquatic; Wht’s Eating Gilbert Grape; A Man Called Ove; Sweden- Sing; Fantastic Beasts & Where to find them; Passengers; Miss Sloane; Assassin’s Creed;Elle; Silence; Patriot’s Day and Midnight in Paris.

The Logan spinoff film with Hugh Jackman has had generally good reviews. Kong: Skull Island has also opened to favorable reviews. Get Out, a Horror/Thriller directed by Jordan Peele, has been given almost perfect scores from Rotten Tomatoes, and has earned some rave reviews. The romantic comedy Table 19 has, on the other hand, been generally panned across the board. The Great Wall with Matt Damon has also been panned and considered a flop. Finally, there is a long-read on the Some Came Running site in praise of the Martin Scorsese film Silence, recently released.

The genre of comic book films was discussed in The Guardian this past week. The critics have come out with a list of favorite superhero films, and they include: Batman from 1989 (my favorite also!); Captain America: The Winter Soldier; Thor: The Dark World and The Dark Knight. All of these are generally well reviewed and represent some of the best in a newly established genre that has had some weak entries in recent years. There are some imaginative possibilities in this category, but the lazier end of the spectrum can provide simply a host of CGI scenes with little chance of clever dialogue or original scripts.

Best of the Web: From the Ebert.com site, there’s a great tribute to the actor Bill Paxton, who died suddenly last week. A piece in Film Comment laments the death of the comic film. One quote said, “Hollywood has perfected {the comic film} using the generic formula and familiarity to generate laughs.” We live in a fast paced and ever changing media environment, and the society has created the need for ever more complex screen stories. We need characters created in classics such as The Thin Man or His Girl Friday, or physical comedy that rivals the early Jim Carrey films or classic Chaplin or Keaton. In other words, the films that pass for comedy these days aren’t really all that funny, and they don’t seem to be trying too hard.

Recommended: Logan, Fences; Lion at the movies. Arrival is recommended for the small screen. And if you like Hugh Jackman, rent the following: Kate & Leopold; Scoop; Les Miserables.

The Big Picture: Movies for 2018 awards are already being mentioned. They include: The Big Sick- A Romantic Comedy with Ray Romano & Holly Hunter; Dunkirk with Tom Hardy. The true story of the massive evacuation known as the “Miracle of Dunkirk”; Christopher Nolan directs;  and Darkest Hour- Gary Oldman plays Churchill during the Battle of Britain.

The idea that films are somehow immune from the other problems that plague us in society is laughable. We are a divided nation politically, and even, or perhaps especially, our film community illustrates the divide we face. There is always a need for films with clever, witty dialogue, actors who charm and move us in the same breath, films that unite us and great directors who challenge us to look at life in a new and different way. These are the challenges as we move into the future, and as mentioned this past week, these are the types of films that we don’t see often enough. Art has always been about the future, and a new way of looking at life. This is a pivotal moment in the field and craft of film-making, and let us hope that there are artists working today that will rise to the occasion and
bring us together through the great and beautiful art of film-making.