6 Degrees: Armchair Film Fest

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT
6 Degrees of Film

 

Hello Film Fans! We have a new list for those of you who are like me and keep a running list for your Armchair Film Festival. The films listed here are shown on Turner Classic Movies in April. Most are available on Netflix or other online streaming services. We have listed films on strong women role models; the films of Stanley Kubrick; films with Steve McQueen and a few other generational films that mark the era in which they were made. All of these are recommended to watch and record at some point in your life as ‘must see’ movies.

Adams Rib
Films about strong women: Adam’s Rib and Ninotchka are both being shown and the question is often asked:  Why should we care about these old black & white movies?

Adam’s Rib is a story of two lawyers, a married couple, who suddenly find themselves embroiled in a courtroom drama where a woman who was experiencing domestic abuse (played by Judy Holliday), tries to kill her husband. The story is a far advanced pre-cursor about women’s rights and is a timely message for this #MeToo era we are in. Katherine Hepburn is the perfect foil for Spencer Tracy, and this is probably their best film together.
Ninotchka is one of the Garbo films showing this month, and one that I find the most ‘watchable’ of her work. She was known for her aloof air, and the billing was “Garbo Laughs” to sell this picture. It is a story of pre Cold War Russia and the character of Russians infiltrating and a happy go lucky American who is sent to deal with them is particularly timely in this age of Russian involvement in our elections

Films from Stanley Kubrick; 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr Strangelove; these are two films made for our time.

Dr Strangelove

Here’s a link to the 6 Degrees Dr Strangelove review, and again, in this political climate, no matter what your political stance may be, the notion that a film that was written as a serious take on the Cold War posturing was turned into a black comedy by Kubrick was a genius move. Apart from 2001, this is one of my favorite films from Kubrick

2001 a Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey was a precursor to everything. All things sci-fi; before there was a Star Wars, before there was a Star TREK, before there was any notion of the world envisioned by George Lucas, there was 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is one of the best films ever made, according to most acclaimed critics, and I share that view. The film perfectly encapsulates a time period where we were beginning to explore space, and ask questions about the meaning of the big picture in science, which has led to the era of quantum computers and the Big Bang and serious talk of Einstein’s Unified Theory.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, 6 Degrees of Film on 2001:

2001: A Space Odyssey—This great film works on
many different levels and is the gold standard for most
science-fiction films of the latter part of the twentieth
century. The beginning and end of the film take place
in very different settings than one would think of as
“outer space.” The scenes with the apes on earth and
the old man in a sterile room contrast directly with the
high-tech world associated with science fiction, and
they are vital for the film to work.
Six Degrees of Film: Science-fiction films, futuristic
and innovative speculative fiction, Aliens, Blade
Runner, The Matrix

Films with Steve McQueen: McQueen embodied the essence of what is ‘cool’, in a way perhaps more than anyone after James Dean, who died too young to really crystallize the essence of cool meant to a grown man. Bullitt and Soldier in the Rain are both shown on TCM this month, and in both, McQueen takes the legacy of James Dean to another level.
Bullitt is almost the natural continuation of a legacy that began in the fifties with Dean in Rebel Without a cause and Giant. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen were the natural successors to this legacy and the embodiment of the persona of ‘cool’ as defined by Hollywood and a new era of movie stars.

Bullitt
In Bullitt, one of McQueen’s best films, the first of the ubiquitous car chase sequences is filmed in San Francisco, with McQueen driving his iconic Mustang through the city in a first of its kind car chase. And in Soldier in the Rain, McQueen acts opposite Jackie Gleason, where Gleason plays a straight role that is perfectly suited for the larger than life swaggering characters that he made famous.

The GOld RUsh

Charlie Chaplin at his best: He was the most famous movie star and the most recognizable character during Hollywood’s early years. Chaplin’s “The Little Tramp’ was instantly recognized all around the globe. And in the era of silent film, something that has been lost since the early 20’s is the universality of the character that didn’t depend upon dialogue when creating film stories and sequences. The notions of living in poverty and scraping by were also part of the Tramp’s appeal. The Gold Rush is one of his most famous films, and the sequence where he dances with the bread rolls is also one of the most widely shown segments in this film.

The Thin Man is another classic esteemed for the witty dialogue and captivating characters. Myrna Loy and William Powell were brought back for sequels for many years. In the era we live in of continual sequels, it proves that what’s old is new again!

Here’s an excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film about the writing team for The Thin Man series:

Goodrich and Hackett
Francis Goodrich and husband Albert Hackett were coauthors
of three screenplays based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1934 novel
The Thin Man. Longtime friends of Hammett, they found and
nursed him through more than one drunken spree.
Goodrich and Hackett came to Hollywood in the middle
of the talkies panic. At first, they were under contract with
MGM and had credits for at least thirteen films, including the
Thin Man series. The Nick and Nora Charles partnership was
Dashiell Hammett’s invention, but Goodrich and Hackett took
the brand and made it their own. The witty, companionable
back-and-forth banter between Nick and Nora set The Thin
Man scripts apart; the barbs and counter-barbs made the series
resonate with a kind of literate love talk, a sustaining of the
relationship’s vitality and edge—and its equality.”

 

The Graduate; told the story of the sixties, encapsulated on film. The emergence of the anti-hero in Dustin Hoffman, a short and funny and virtually unknown young actor with an everyman appeal was one of the more startling and lingering after-effects from the film. The plot where the young man is having an affair with an older woman was also a topic not often directed to comedy in film; and this was considered an extremely risqué subject at its debut. Finally, the direction of Mike Nichols combined with the memorable musical score of Simon & Garfunkel sets this film apart and overlays the time capsule of the sixties as an indelible part of the theme of isolation in a changing world.

Picnic at Hanging Rock; one of the best of director Peter Weir; and the beginning of a Golden Age for Australian filmmakers. In an era of films that were breaking out from formulas that tied them to the times they were made in, this movie has a timeless appeal. Peter Weir directs this film that defines the new era of independent film-makers and gives audiences food for thought without overlapping dialogue or story arcs. The film is a quiet study that has a haunting quality throughout that lingers with the hints of foreboding found in the girls’ actions before they embark on their ill-fated excursion to Hanging Rock. Again, this film deals with the theme of isolation in a way that Weir brings home through the use of slow-motion camera shots and a haunting theme that is in sync with the silent desperation shown in this unique, groundbreaking classic.

From 6 Degrees of Film book:

Picnic at Hanging RockAnother early film of Peter
Weir, this film is based on a true story* of a group
of Australian girls picnicking at a popular tourist
attraction called Hanging Rock during the Victorian
era. They are lost and some never return, but the ones
who do seem to have suffered a life-altering experience.
The event has undertones of horror and sexual tension
as the returning girls struggle to tell the adults what
happened. *Although this has been disputed…

Hope you enjoy the Armchair Film Fest for this month. Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees: Friday Flix

 

168816805 FOR 6 DEGREES COVER PHOTO SHOT
6 Degrees of Film

Greetings Film Fans! Hope everyone had a happy fourth of July. The films of July are here beginning with Ant Man and the Wasp, which has had some good early reviews and a clever trailer to kick off the super-hero film of the month. Here’s a short clip of some other openings from our July/August list:
Mamma Mia! Here we go again is on July 20th...here we go again… This may not be worth revisiting, but I’m a huge Meryl Streep and Colin Firth fan, and this premise does (not) seem interesting enough to hold our attention….
Mission: Impossible-Fallout on July 27th.… And I ask without snark….will Tom Cruise ever make a film that is anything other than an exercise of gymnastics and stunts? He was a good actor in another life…

Papillon 2018
Papillon is coming at the end of the summer cycle, it’s set for release late in August. This would be hard to beat. The original with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman was a great action-adventure film that was an intense drama and is one of McQueen’s great screen triumphs. Charlie Hunnam (King Arthur) plays the lead, based on the real life story of a Frenchman who is desperate to escape from a life sentence in a French Guiana penal colony.

2001 a Space Odyssey

From 6 Degrees Magazine: Here’s an interesting quote that was unearthed from the late great Stanley Kubrick regarding the very mysterious ending scene in the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick talks of the ending:
Kubrick: “The idea was supposed to be that he is taken in by god-like entities, creatures of pure energy and intelligence with no shape or form. They put him in what I suppose you could describe as a human zoo to study him, and his whole life passes from that point on in that room. And he has no sense of time. It just seems to happen as it does in the film…When they get finished with him, …he is transformed into some kind of super being and sent back to Earth, transformed and made into some sort of superman (alluding to the star baby.) “We have to only guess what happens when he goes back. It is the pattern of a great deal of mythology, and that is what we were trying to suggest.”

This is fascinating as so much has been written and speculated about regarding the fate of the astronaut and the entire ending sequence. The most important thing I pulled from this was in line with what I’d always heard when people talk of this film. 2001 allows anyone, the average man on the street, an intellectual or a science-fiction fan, to imagine the ending in their own way. We can ‘guess what happens’ when he returns to Earth as the fantasy star child. And the mythology is added to give it a special element of interest. (Much the same is said about the mythology that George Lucas attached to his Star Wars characters to give rise to an entire new mythology!)

At the Movies: The indie film getting a lot of good buzz is Sorry to Bother you. It’s about race and is a satire and send up of the gig economy and was directed by Boots Riley, who is a musician by trade.

Movies about America: The fourth brings out a spate of articles on which films are considered “American.” The essence of what America is can be found in many classic Hollywood films; and it means so many things to many different people, It can only be a subjective idea, and for me, my personal picks would include The Right Stuff; Apollo 13, American Graffiti; An American in Paris, North by Northwest; Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid & The Godfather. One film that is on my list and is showing this month on TCM is On the Waterfront with Brando, and I see this film as essentially American with Brando in the lead role in many ways, it’s a deeper and more pivotal role than Brando’s signature role from A Streetcar Named Desire, and it deals with the idea that anyone can be anything which is the essence of the standard ideal of the American Dream.

6degreesLogogif (2)

Recommended for Armchair Film Fest: Continuing the theme of great American films, this is a great month for classic American actors with Steve McQueen as the featured actor on Turner Classic. One of my favorite things is to discover and recommend lesser seen films from famous actors where most people recognize them from their more popular work. With McQueen, some of his great performers are in some of his lesser known films. Those films would be The Getaway, Soldier in the Rain, and Nevada Smith, which are seen less than McQueen’s big debut film, The Great Escape. Another film to watch out for starring Steve McQueen is Papillon, which has been remade and will release, as we mentioned above, this August.

Armchair Film Fans to watch for in July on Turner Classic:
• Classic Comedy duos: Turner Classic is showing two of my all time favorite from two great comic teams, Abbott & Costello & Laurel & Hardy. Time of their Lives is a departure for Abbott & Costello in that they didn’t work together on film as they had in the past. The plot called for Lou to be a ghost who haunts the grounds where Abbott is just one of a group of people working to solve a mystery surrounding the death of the two ghosts. And Sons of the Desert is a comic masterpiece that no one who has ever loved Laurel & Hardy should miss.
Steve McQueen Film Festival: Some must-see’s to recommend are Soldier in the Rain, The Sand Pebbles-McQueen’s only Oscar nomination for Best Actor, Bullitt-his greatest performance,  and Papillon, One of the reasons that McQueen was a great actor was the fact that like Gary Cooper in another era, he made it seem effortless. In a time of ‘angst’ where acting studios and method actors produced Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, McQueen was a tough guy who drifted onto the screen and not only oozed charisma and masculine charm from every pore, but also had a kind of vulnerability not seen before in many actors. Like Cooper, he was a natural.
That’s it for now. Have a great week and till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

Happy Friday to all! This week, there was a good piece in our 6 Degrees magazine about director David Cronenberg, director of Dead Ringers, A History of Violence, and many other hits and misses along the way. And one of the more exciting developments was the advent of Women Directors Week-on Ebert.com they are showcasing films exclusively directed by women. Why is that a big deal? Because we have the sad statistics showing that women directors last year directed only 7% of the top grossing films in the states. And that number is down from 2015, where 9% were directed by women. So the problem is not going away, but awareness and also proactive promotion by the studios and independent companies will help to reverse these trends.

Hollywood Buzz: There are predictions out there for which films will make it to the Cannes Film Festival this year. Cannes runs May 17th through the 28th. Ghost in the Shell is doing well in Japan despite its miserable showing in the Western world; Trailers are out for Wonder Woman and for Thor: Ragnorak plus Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde

Coming Soon: There is a Dirty Dancing remake in the works, as well as a Coming to America sequel. And director Guy Ritchie is reviving the Arthurian tales with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword -coming in May. Then there’s Alien: Covenant, which is the prequel to the Alien series and the sequel to Prometheus. Got it?

The ones I’m looking for include Wonder Woman (not so much for the non-existent plot, but the emphasis now on GirlPower and how Hollywood tiptoes delicately around the subject of women’s empowerment and will eventually ham-handedly plow through the notion that women can be strong role models). Also coming this summer: The adaptation of the true story of Dunkirk from director Christopher Nolan with Tom Hardy in the cast.

Recommended: Personal Shopper: Kristen Stewart’s latest film is getting good reviews. The Golfing movie: Tommy’s Honour is reviewed as well as The Lost City of Z and Life, both from the MacGuffin site.

This week there’s a piece talking about the making of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and an interview with Morgan Freeman, who thinks that “The Shawshank Redemption” was a bomb at the box office because the film’s title wasn’t catchy enough…Maybe. But it may just have been a film before it’s time.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” were not huge hits either, and yet they’re beloved must-see viewing for millions. Some films don’t click when they are released, yet they become true classic over the course of time.

And then there’s the “Bad Movies” list that has become an art form thanks to the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 crew. My love for bad movies is well documented .(My personal favorite is not Plan 9 from Outer Space, but it is from the same director. It’s Ed Wood’s 1953 masterpiece of schlock & awe: Glen or Glenda.

From the vaults: Master filmmaker Stanley Kubrick remarked that politics was nothing more than “a channel for releasing pent-up sexual aggression”. A fitting segueway into my list of recommended political films for our times. The list includes Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove; Inherit the Wind; The Manchurian Candidate from 1962; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Ugly American; The Candidate, All the President’s Men and Bulworth. I’ve been thinking a lot about the political discourse in these United States and how much of our life is centered around politics and the election cycle in our fast-paced media world where news is disseminated by the moment. So it’s important to look back now and then and see what America was thinking and learning about candidates and about our government in decades past. More on this in the coming week.

Finally, for our Easter weekend, there’s a showing on TCM of Jimmy Stewart’s signature role in Harvey, where Stewart is accompanied by a 6 foot invisible talking Rabbit named Harvey. And for something completely different, there’s Ben Hur from 1959 starring Charlton Heston. The remake this past year was notably lame, but the original talking version (there was a Silent film also made in 1925), is still the best.

Happy Holiday weekend to all, and till next time-see you at the movies!ML

6 Degrees Friday Flix

 

6 Degrees of Film

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 Marvel Studios, 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, Francis Ford 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