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.

Oscar Notes

Oscars Chris rock 2016

• The Paradigm Shift: has left us with some awful optics. A boring Oscar show that droned on and on about the problems facing the film industry.
• The show seemed to go on forever and was the veritable one-trick pony. We know that diversity has been a problem for a long time. And Chris Rock did deliver a funny opening monologue, plus an amusing montage of black comics popping up in recent films.
• However, at some point, they should have let the matter rest. Enough was said about diversity, and there should have been more comedy. Less of the PC Police and Truth Squad, and more about the artistic merits of film as an art form, which is the reason the Academy gathers as that august body.
• There could have been some mention of the ongoing US political race, which has dominated the news globally. Not only does it affect our entire nation, it reminds us of the reason that film is relevant. It speaks to us of current events and global affairs.

Bob hope oscars
• Although there’s a risk of “old-fogey-ism” to bring it up, it’s true that in years past, Bob Hope or Johnny Carson could easily bring the conversation around to include some political humor, as well as hitting topical and other current events.
• Diversity, in the monologue and throughout society, is key here. In other words, mix it up a little bit. If Lady Gaga is all you have going for you two years running, you’re not trying hard enough.
• The powers that be could have used imagination and creativity to put together… perhaps a film? A loop, a montage or reel that might document the changing social norms that have brought us to this point in time.
• I daresay someone, perhaps with the talent of a Steven Spielberg or the like, may be sitting in that audience waiting for a chance to shine their light.
• The suggestions, half-serious, have been made by myself and others to mix it up and change the Oscar categories. But whatever the solution, it’s clear that there is something missing from a tired, stale formula that seemed magical 30-40 years ago, but needs a complete overhaul in the modern era of film.

6 Degrees: Oscar News

Oscar Selfie pix

The Oscars are coming this weekend. And the lists I tend to gravitate towards are my own made-up versions for what passes as 6 Degrees Awards. The dream lists include some needed revision to the tired and stale Old White Guys Awards that has devolved into the Academy Awards Show.

The Revenant

The one bright spot for me is the possible Oscar for Leo DiCaprio, and since it will be for his entire body of work, including The Aviator, Blood Diamond, The Wolf of Wall Street, and many more from his long career, it should be a fitting tribute.

What about categories for….?

One of the solutions I’ve been kicking around under the hashtag: OscarsSoWhite; SoOld; SoPredictable; SoBORing and So20thCentury are some new updated categories for the Academy of Old White Guys to kick around.

First, obviously, they should change the makeup of the people who vote for these films. And then, to revive the entire Awards Concept, you should update the Categories with some that people might be interested in knowing the outcome when you announce them, rather than treating the whole thing as a big insider’s game where only a few rarified groups care when you announce the winners.

How about Oscar Categories for:

 

  • Best Performance by a young actor (under 30)
  • Best Comic Performance
  • Science & Trending-CGI Categories
  • Best Social Impact Film or Film with the Greatest Impact in the past decade
  • Classics: All Oscar Nominated Films are eligible to compete-
  • Best Remake of a Classic
  • Best Comic Genre Film…

Another list I’ve toyed with is one for Oscars from the past decades that have impacted lives. It’s a short list, with only a few memorable films. The films of the 21st Century that have most impacted our lives would include:*

Lost in Translation; The Matrix; The Social Network; There will be Blood; No Country for Old Men; Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Casino Royale; Batman Begins; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Frozen; The 40 Year old Virgin; Juno; 12 Years a Slave; Slumdog Millionaire; Iron Man; Taken; The Hurt Locker; Inglorious Basterds; The Wolf of Wall St; When the Levees Broke; Closer

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT

**Some may wonder why there are no foreign films on the list. At 6 Degrees of Film, our reason for existence has been and continues to be the impact of current films and the contrast with films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Hence the six degrees of separation found in our title.

We do note, and certainly concede that most foreign films of the 21st Century are made well and for the most part, are far superior to the Hollywood version (Let the Right One in, Little Nikita, Wings of Desire are a few that come to mind.) We have compiled a list of some recommended blog sites that have a much wider range of scope plus manpower in terms of review of foreign films.

And there are some films that are distributed worldwide, simply because they are produced in Hollywood, which is still the business center of filmmaking. Therefore, the cultural impacts are seen first when these movies are made, and for several years into the future, as films, along with all other art forms, take years to sink in and to become ingested into the mainstream of culture. This short list illustrates some of the films that have had a lasting impression on our society within the past decade.

What’s Coming:

Dr Strange

Benedict Cumberbatch will star as Dr Strange. The remakes include The Jungle Book; Ben Hur; Legend of Tarzan; plus the sequel Bridget Jones’ Baby.

I saw the light 2

The biopics are Race about the Olympic runner Jesse Owens; plus the much-anticipated Hank Williams story, I saw the Light.

The book adaptation category includes the faith-based film The Shack.

Sutherlands Western

The two Sutherlands, Donald and Kiefer, will star together in a Western, Forsaken.

Free state of jones

And finally, the Oscar Winners: Denzel Washington /Antoine Fuqua will team again to remake: The Magnificent Seven and Matthew McConaughey stars in Free State of Jones.

Stay tuned for the Oscars Round Up as we recap the winners and losers from this year’s show. There are some films that always seem to go under the radar, and others that fade with time. Few films are so acclaimed in their own time period that we see the merit of the film right away.

Many of the greatest films are ones that didn’t do well when they were first released. Or they may have some critical acclaim, but go unnoticed by the public in general. That is perhaps the nature of art, and at times, the way we view life through the lens of time.

We should take a few steps back and take in the best films we’ve seen in the past few years. Some films may appear dated, while others deserve a second or third look. We’ll have more of the lists of films that Oscar overlooked in the coming weeks. Until next time we’ll see you at the Movies!

Check out our list of Recommended reads each week in the online magazine: 6 Degrees @the Movies on Flipboard!

 

6 Degrees: Movie Trends for the New Year

6 Degrees of Film
6 Degrees of Film

 

Happy New Year to my fellow movie goers and 6 Degree friends! The Silly season is upon us, and in Hollywood, that’s saying a lot…(It’s always silly season, really). The Awards season has arrived with the Golden Globes, and BAFTA (British Films), and Film Critics Association and so on. The big Kahoona-the Oscars-just announced their nominees late this week.

But the most dreaded of all things for most film critics is the annual lists. The Year’s best films are all on parade as a sign of how very good or bad or banal or pseudo-intellectual the noted reviewer can be. There are some surprises when a list of films that no one in America has ever seen start to populate the lists. And then there are some absolute stinkers that crop up on one or two selected lists.

I think that the worst thing about the yearly list of lists is the predictable nature of the institutions that publish the lists. One of the reasons I’ve become overly cynical about the production of yearly film lists is that I not only write about film, but I also edit a film magazine. And the worst part of the job (besides not getting paid!), is that the same stories are recycled about 100 times and the only changes are the snazzy titles that are offered: “Films to watch when you want to lose weight”; “The best of….fill in the blank”; “Summer surf films”; “China is boffo at box office”; or “Who will be the next hero in the Cinematic Universe?”

The list goes on…I have my own list of movie trends. These are some of the things that seem to be rotated on an amazingly and at times, boringly regular basis:

Movie Trends List from 6 Degrees

  •  Sequels & Spin offs-These are the bread and butter movies for most of Hollywood. They are not all terrible, as I’ve often pointed out that Shakespeare did pretty well with re-hashing old plots.
    The Comic Book Universe-This is a genre that could use a good shake-up. It could use a small electrical shock for all the writers who continue to re-work the same basic plot through a never-ending list of superheroes bent on saving the world.

Wiz of oz 1
The Cinematic Universe-This is an interesting conceit as it encompasses so many different cinematic universes. We may think of Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings, but it could be interpreted as far back as The Cinematic Universe of Oz or the Cinematic Universe of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel & Hardy. The Cinematic Universe connotes fantasy and storytelling, some of the strong suits of Hollywood classics. In the world of fantastic beasts and unrequited yearning, we find some of the greatest stories and cinematic universes imagined.

  • 482px-Garbo_Lenox_Publicity
    Fem Flicks/Girl Power-Although there have always been strong women in films, from Greta Garbo and Katherine Hepburn to Meryl Streep and Maggie Smith, we are now seeing a new generation of moviegoers who celebrate Girl Power and young women who can identify with the heroines in hits like Frozen and The Hunger Games bringing young girls into the 21st Century and seeking parity with young boys.
    Kid Power/Pixar movies/animated & Kids movies: Some of the most creative films of the past few decades have come out of the Pixar studios. This shouldn’t be a surprise as Walt Disney was one of the pioneers in the field of animation and live action films for children through most of the 20th Century. The trend continues in the 21st Century, with more imaginative and creative films being produced from Finding Nemo and Wall-E to Shrek and Tangled.
    Global village at the movies-Diversity and Foreign Films continue to converge with the English language market and we are fast becoming a Global Village of moviegoers. You can interpret that to mean that not as many great films are coming out of Hollywood these days.
    Rise of China at the Box office-This is one of those stories that happens to have some elements of truth mixed in with a spice of hyperbole to lend it credence. Yes, there is a huge burgeoning market in the world now for Chinese audiences, but there market share is still far below most of the North American audience.
    Rise of the Small Screen- Here is a trend about fifty years in the making. In my book, 6 Degrees of Film, the movie moguls of the fifties were scared stiff by the thought of televisions showing movies on the small screen and keeping moviegoers at home. New fads such as 3-D glasses and Smell-o-Vision came to the theatres. Nothing new here, except we can now watch films on our televisions and I-Pads. Perhaps the most worrying trend is the one where the most talented writers are now working for Cable Network series, and the most interesting and creative story lines are being discovered on HBO and Showtime, and not at major film studios.
    Rise of the Movie Blogger– With the rise of the movie blogger, we find an interesting panoply of titles and genres to blog about, ranging from horror to box office totals, from Film Noir to Bollywood, from Classics to Comic book genres, and even to blogs for gaming sites. The problem is, as with the movie studios, that there exist only a certain amount of talented writers and bloggers producing material, and the rest, as they say, is “crap”!
    Twilight of the Film Critic– Not necessarily. Some of the best reviews come from NPR, The Guardian, and other old faithful’s like The New York Times and LA Times, plus some unexpected places like Ebert.com, where Chaz Ebert, Roger’s widow, has put together a really creative and varied site with different pieces covering all aspects of filmmaking. Film Comment also produces thoughtful and erudite pieces on film on a regular basis.

• Where to find the best information about film? Of course, in my humble opinion, all the news that’s fit to print about film can be found at 6 Degrees of Film, our online magazine where reviews and the best pieces on current films are selected each week, with an emphasis on weekly round-ups of top film sites each Friday, and on Mondays the box office numbers and top films are all featured.

This week: we found the following:

• News of the death of the great and distinguished English actor, Alan Rickman
• An Interview with Director Paul Verhoeven
• A piece on the newly released Orson Welles Classic “Chimes at Midnight” which was Welles’ take on Shakespeare’s Falstaff.
• An interesting looking film : “The Treasure”, about three men on a treasure hunt in a suburban backyard-reminiscent of the classic with Robert Ryan, “God’s Little Acre”
• Reviews of The Revenant (6 Degrees has a piece)
Molly Haskell on “The Masculine and the Feminine”, a piece originally published in 1974. She looks at classics such as “The Big Sleep” and the on-screen relationship developed in characters portrayed by Bogart and Bacall.
• The complete list of Academy Award nominated films. The Oscars are held Sunday, February 28th, with Chris Rock as this year’s host. Should be a welcome change, with Rock calling attention to the lack of diversity and the ongoing “Old White Guy” problem plaguing the Oscars.
• An interesting piece on “Star Wars Mythology 3.0”. There is always a danger of overkill with so much publicity and attention surrounding the Star Wars film, but this is a different take on the Cinematic Universe, if you will, of Star Wars.
• Much more to be seen and read in 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies

One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Tampa Theatre

Cuckoo's Nest

This was a ground-breaking film in many respects. Nicholson’s signature role as the rebellious McMurphy is one that is as bound with his acting legacy as much as Brando’s is bound with Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar or Bogart’s Rick from Casablanca. The supporting cast is also memorable, including acclaimed actors such as Scatman Crothers, Danny DeVito, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, and Christopher Lloyd.

And the story still resonates today, forty years after the film was made. It’s a story involving not only personal freedom, but the fine line we all walk in terms of moral relativity of good and evil and right vs wrong. Was Nurse Ratched acting with evil intent or did she simply make moral judgments based on the rules set by the confining nature of a structured institution which was a home for the mentally ill?

The film swept the major categories in 1975, a feat that has occurred only three times in the history of the Oscars. The only other two films that swept the Academy Awards were It Happened One Night in 1934, and the very different winner, The Silence of the Lambs, from 1991. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was based on the book by Ken Kesey, and was written in 1962. In Kesey’s book, the story was told from the point of view of McMurphy’s silent Indian friend, Chief Bromden.

Tampa Theatre is screening One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Sunday, January 17 at 3:00 pm.