6 Degrees: Friday Flix


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Degrees Friday Flix: The Cinco de Mayo Edition


6 Degrees of Film

The Cinco de Mayo Edition: Happy Cinco de Mayo to one and all…I am still pleasantly surprised, as mentioned in the past week, at the response that most have to any mention of James Bond. Bond has made a huge impact, not only in the movies themselves, but in the global interest in who plays Bond onscreen and the continued interest in the screen legacy of the Bond franchise.

*The Death of Cinema? Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott have both been quoted in recent interviews lamenting the death of cinema as we know it. Both have blamed the comic book genre, a likely target for those of us old enough to remember the debut of The Godfather and Raging Bull, Blade Runner and Jaws as they became huge hits at the movies. The award-winning directors talked about the millennials ability to watch big-screen features on any device; the advent of CGI; the comic book genres and the difficulty of getting a project “green-lit” when so many sequels and comic book series are in the works. Conversely, Scorsese also acknowledged the “revolution in filmmaking” that has allowed so many young people to make films on a very small budget. And the directors Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson all drew praise from Scorsese. So…all is not lost!

*What They’re Saying About: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is on track to break records and pull it into the top moneymakers lists. It Comes at Night has debuted as a first rate horror film for 2017

***Star Wars Day: There is such a holiday now, honoring the impact Star Wars has on our culture. One article in 6 Degrees magazine highlights the top Star wars Movie Moments. We all know the lines:… “Luke I am your Father, give in to the Dark Side of the Force; I love you…I know” and “Help me,Obi Wan Kenobi- You’re my only hope.”

The way Yoda speaks Pig Latin of a sort, the power of the Force to create magic and the quest for Luke to find his father are all deeply entrenched in our lexicon and our culture. The myth begins with…Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away…and the myth continues to build into the 21st Century.

Such is the power of imagination. As J. K Rawlings created the mythical realm of Hogwarts, so did George Lucas create the universe of Star Wars. There may be a universal acceptance of Star Wars Day, but as it stands now, the Force is honored mostly with costume parades and toy sales.

In my book, 6 Degrees of Film, there is an acknowledgment that the last quarter of the 20th Century belonged to Star Wars. Not only through the film and the story-telling lens, but the myth and the persistent allure of the stories of the Force and the nature of the Dark Side permeate our culture. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of waning interest in the universe of Star Wars, particularly since Disney has bought the rights and promotes it through theme parks and characters. In short, the first two decades of the 21st Century have also been steeped with the mythos of the Star Wars Universe. 

**Films to be excited about in the Summer of 17: Some of the summer releases include: The HouseWill Ferrell returns to his comic roots; Wonder Woman-with a nod to GirlPower world wide, the tale of the invincible Amazonian warrior is hopefully spun to interest women who need a dose of empowerment in the current climate. And finally Dunkirk; with director Christopher Nolan giving us his take on the true story of the “Miracle of Dunkirk”; along with Tom Hardy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh.

About The Godfather: They didn’t want Pacino or Brando; Pacino thought it would flop; they couldn’t use the word Mafia in the film; but the movie somehow managed to come together and catapulted Al Pacino and James Caan to fame. The film also reignited Brando’s faltering career, and promoted Francis Ford Coppola into the pantheon of great directors of all time.

*Coming on TCM: There are lots of Bogart films and war films featured on TCM during the month of May. Pulled from the vaults at Turner Classic, some of Bogart’s greatest films, The Big Sleep and To Have and to Have not are being shown. One of his lesser known films, Across the Pacific with Mary Astor, is also shown in May. It’s highly recommended for all who may be interested in the continued allure of the great character that was Humphrey Bogart.

*Godzilla v King Kong: coming in 2020, there is already “buzz” about the upcoming clash of the two major Hollywood film monsters. The latest film Kong: Skull Island was a tepid entry in the listing of monster movies. But the classic originals are both being shown this month on TCM: Godzilla (with Raymond Burr) and King Kong-the one with Fay Wray and the Empire State Building. Both are must see’s for those who are at all interested in the litany of monster movie classics.

*About Film Noir: If you do get a chance to watch The Big Sleep, or another classic Film Noir, remember some of the rules to identify this genre: The scenes are lit for night; there are lots of scenes with rain, which tends to accelerate the dramatic events; the narrator is crucial; and usually sets the tone for the type of dark and ominous moods that beset the characters and the subsequent events. There is often a passionate attachment to the past, followed by a fear of the future; and the overall movie themes almost always encompass loss, nostalgia, mysterious attachments to objects or people from the past and insecurity in all of its forms.

*50th Anniversary of The Graduate: Groundbreaking films were rampant during the period when The Graduate debuted in the sixties. Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, Cool Hand Luke and Hud broke all the rules of filmmaking to date. Mike Nichols made this comedy with a relative unknown star named Dustin Hoffman in the lead role. The rest, as they say, is history.

*Question: What makes a comic book movie “artful”? Or what makes any movie artful for that matter? My favorite Batman film remains Tim Burton’s Batman and also the original Superman starring Christopher Reeve…not so much for the artful nature, but for the fact that these films as a whole  were treated as comic book entities as well as major Hollywood films.

The Batman series with Christian Bale was probably more artistic in the treatment of the dark side of the character. But the artful nature of any film is shown in nuanced vignettes and superior story-telling, and that is something missing in most of the comic book genre.

The great actors playing the villains always make the most interesting parts of the whole. Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger were undoubtedly the best parts of the Batman series. But there is no comparison with the aforementioned classics, The Graduate and The Godfather.

The comic book genre lends itself to the Hollywood treatment and the characters and nature of the beast will never be transformed into an art piece. The latest films stand on their graphic comic elements, not on the ideals and nuanced character portraits that are buried within the central themes.

Finally, once again here’s wishing everyone a happy celebration for the 5th of May known as Cinco de Mayo. A big shout out to my friend and colleague and fellow critic Jason King, who supplies us with some of his reviews from “Salty Popcorn” including The Zookeeper’s Wife and other delights. Until next week, as we gear up for more Summer Film releases-See you at the movies!_ML