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

6 Degrees: Summer Newsletter

maggie gyllenhall

Women in Hollywood: Sexism & Age Discrimination. Now there’s Maggie Gylenhall to add to the list of women speaking out about some of the unfair and discriminatory practices Hollywood has been engaged in for decades. In her case, she was told that at age 37, she was too old to be the love interest for a 55 year old man!

angelina jolie

 

Top 10 Highest Paid Actresses: No big surprises, but some small ones. I would have thought Scarlett Johannsen or Drew Barrymore would be on this list. Maybe Kate Hudson? Other than that, it’s fairly predictable. Some of the older females, all still relatively young mind you, but not by Hollywood standards!

1. Angelina Jolie
2. Jennifer Lawrence
3. Kristen Stewart
4. Jennifer Aniston
5. Emma Stone
6. Charlize Theron
7. Sandra Bullock
8. Natalie Portman
9. Mila Kunis
10. Julia Roberts

Selma 2

Top 10 Spiritual Films-2014 from Dr. Edward McNulty
1. Selma
2. Calvary
3. Ida
4. Cesar Chavez
5. The Good Lie
6. The theory of everything
7. The Railway Man
8. St Vincent
9. Unbroken
10. Son of God

Another film list that caught my eye was a list of Spiritual Films of 2014. The list found in Presbyterian Today includes some of my favorite films from last year. Selma, St. Vincent, Calvary, Cesar Chavez, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, Ida & The Railway Man are some of the films on the list.
I would add The Drop, with Tom Hardy and the late James Garolfini., plus The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch. These are films that had meaningful messages and all featured characters who, at their core, had some spiritual depth and beliefs that made these films resonate.
There should be some point to reviewing films other than relating the obvious such as whether you recommend it to others. If movies are simply mass entertainment, then word-of-mouth or box office results should be enough to send people to see them. But some films have, at their core, a statement to make or a deeper meaning which is meant to be conveyed to the viewing audience. And in this day and age, it’s becoming harder and harder to find the films with deeper meanings and values.
It’s pointless to reach the end of a year and simply decide, based on box office or one or two critics opinions, which films have staying power. Of course, the reason for award shows like the Oscars or Cannes is to bring to light many obscure and fine works of art. But sometimes that’s not enough.
Many of the films lauded by Hollywood don’t really leave lasting impressions. They may simply reflect a mood of a particular time or era. And there are other films that do leave lasting impressions. Over the past decade in film, the films that have lasting power are few and far between.

Next month I’m featuring a list of films from the past decade that have some kind of lasting impact in our culture. Here’s a list of upcoming Summer Films.

Coming in June

spy

June 5th: Spy with Melissa McCarthy: Hopefully funnier than some of her latest outings. McCarthy is a talented comedienne with a deft touch given the right material. She was wonderful in St Vincent with Bill Murray.

Entourage: The hit series with Jeremy Piven comes to the big screen.

Jurassic World

June 12th: Jurassic World-Coming again to a theatre near you! Jurassic World takes off from the end of the first outing. Jurassic Park is one of the films listed in the top 100 Highest Grossing Films list. Hence, the inevitable rework!

 

Inside out

Inside Out: Pixar’s latest offering. As I’ve said many times, some of the most imaginative and creative work in films is done by Pixar. The film is about five emotions-Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear & Sadness-that exist in the mind of a young girl.

A little chaos

June 19th: A Little Chaos has received mixed reviews. The plot revolves around Kate Winslet as one of the gardeners who helped design the gardens of Versailles  during the reign of King Louis XIV.

Max dog movie 2015

June 26th: Max-This one is not Mad. This is about a service dog from the war and is billed as an ” American family adventure film.” Max is a service dog who must help the family of his fallen handler heal as they recover from his loss.

Coming in July

Terminator Genisys-Another outing with the Terminator. Arnold Schwarzenegger is starring and this one is billed as ” a sequel and a reboot’ of the series. After reading the synopsis, suffice it to say that John and Sarah Connor will try to unravel the time travel screw ups that occur as the writers struggle to make sense of it all.

Mr Holmes

July 10: Mr. Holmes-has received critical acclaim. Ian McKellen stars as an aging Sherlock Holmes.

Ant man

Ant-Man-The ever affable Paul Rudd stars as the super-hero Ant-Man. The plot surrounds Rudd as con-man Scott Lang, who has the ability to shrink and gain astonishing strength when wearing the incredible super-suit.

Irrational man

July 17: Irrational Man-Woody Allen directs Emma Stone and Joacquin Phoenix in this film that debuted at Cannes. Billed as a “mystery drama”, the plot revolves around Phoenix as a college philosophy professor who is experiencing an existential crisis, but finds meaning to his life when he begins a new relationship with one of his students, played by Emma Stone.

Pan 2015

July 24: Pan-Another tale of Peter Pan, this is the background story for the traditional tale of Peter and his journey to Neverland.  Hugh Jackman stars as Blackbeard and Rooney Mara is cast as Tiger Lily.

Vacation 2015

July 29: Vacation-The remake of the original Vacation, this one stars Ed Helms with a cameo from Chevy Chase. Rusty Griswold (Helms) decides to re-connect with his family and take them to see “Wally World”, the mythical theme park that is soon to be closed.

 

RIcki and teh flash

Ricki and the Flash-This is one of those Fem Flicks. Meryl Streep stars and Jonathon Demme directs in this musical comedy/drama. Streep plays a musician who “gave up everything” for her dream of rock-and-roll stardom. Now she is returning to her home to try and make peace with her family.

Opening in August

Man from uncle

August 7: The Man from U.N. C. L. E.- This looks promising, although it is recycled material from the hit series from the sixties. The characters are set in the 1960’s again, as CIA agent Napoleon Solo works with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin to foil a mysterious criminal organization working to proliferate nuclear weapons.

Straight out compton

Straight Outta Compton-This also shows promise to be a timely entry with a story about the hip-hop group NWA as they emerge from Compton, California in the mid-eighties and change the music industry and pop culture forever with their unique brand of music and tales from life in the hood.

Masterminds

Masterminds-Something on the lighter side, with Kristen Wiig and Zach Galifianakis starring in this comedy based on a true story of one of the biggest bank heists in American history.  Kristen Wiig is another talented comedienne who suffers when she’s not given the right script. Hopefully, this one will hit the high notes. Owen Wilson and fellow SNL veteran Jason Sudeikis also star.

Other films of note opening this summer are:  Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise  and  another Fantastic Four remake.

 

black mass

September 2: Black Mass with Johnny Depp starring as gangster Whitey Bulger. Depp has been getting rave reviews for his portrayal of Bulger.