6 Degrees Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

Coming to the end of April, we are beginning the film festival season with the conclusion of New York’s Tribeca Film Festival and the advent of Cannes in May. Accompanying this is the kickoff of the Summer Film season, formerly known as Blockbuster season. There are a few interesting entries, but what has piqued my interest this past week has been some background research, which I periodically do, into the highest grossing films lists. They give us clues into our own culture as it lays out in stark numbers what people are flocking to see, both currently and, as we will see, over the longer term, what movies people love the most!

What it says about us:  These numbers come from the site that does nothing but reveal the box office gross for the films of the past week, as well as of all time. There are two lists that we should pay attention to when thinking about films in general. One is the current standings for the highest grossing films. These are the top 10 currently :

Avatar; Titanic; Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Jurassic World; The Avengers: Furious 7; The Avengers: Age of Ultron; Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1; Frozen and Iron Man 3.

Director James Cameron has the top two spots. The comic book world and Marvel Cinematic Universe dominate with three of the top 10 on this list. Sadly, movies made before the turn of the 21st Century seem to be passe.  Only Titanic has managed to cling to the top ten, still at number two. Star Wars is huge! Harry Potter is still relevant, and Girlpower has come into its own with Frozen’s appeal.

The other list is the all time highest grossing films adjusted for inflation. This includes the following:

  1. Gone With The Wind  3.4 Bill- 1939
  2. Avatar 3.2 Bill-2009
  3. Titanic 2.5 Bill-1997
  4. The Sound of Music 2.3 Bill-1965
  5. ET 2.3 Bill-1982
  6. Dr. Zhivago 2.0 Bill-1965
  7. Jaws 2.0 Bill-1975
  8. Snow White 1.8 Bill – 1937

It tells us that romance is not dead. Classic romantic tales of doomed lovers still sell tickets. James Cameron is still huge! Star Wars is always going to be on the list, and Spielberg makes it into the pantheon with Jaws and ET making the list.

Girlpower somehow still makes its voice known, especially to young girls who, since 1937, have been empowered by the tale of a young determined woman who survives in the woods alone with seven small dwarfs. The lone musical on the list (not counting Disney’s animation) is The Sound of Music, which has seen the sound of cash coming in for decades now. I’m a big fan of this film, but realize that some people consider it as nails against the chalkboard.

Some of the surprises on the list of top grossing films, listed on the site….and going through the top 50 are, at least for me, that James Bond is still a heavy hitter with Skyfall and Spectre making the list.  Johnny Depp is still making the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels ad nauseum. Why? The movies keep turning up in the top grossing films of all time.

Some other surprises for me: A film I liked but is still controversial in the Star Wars Pantheon is Star Wars: The Phantom Menace-Episode I with Liam Neeson. It is the third highest grossing Star Wars film of all time. Go figure.

I was surprised that The Jungle Book live action remake from 2016 is in the top 50 highest grossing films. I liked it, but it still surprised me to see the numbers.  Other surprises were that the original Jurassic Park is still in the top 25…The Dark Knight Rises in in the top 20- of all Batman films…and as bad as reviews were for Batman vs Superman it’s in the top 50 highest grossing of all time

No surprise about the number of sequels listed. And there was a complaint last week from a reader who couldn’t open a list (neither could I) from a site that touted the top Billion dollar grossing films of all time.

Well, it turns out that ALL of the films on the highest grossing films list up to #30- Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone on up- all made 1 Billion dollars or more. Here’s the link again. It’s a depressing fact of life that Hollywood will continue to manufacture virtually the same films over and over as long as people pay good money to see them.

And another depressing fact for those of us who love film, the history of film, and in particular, films that were made in the twentieth century. The oldest film on the top 50 highest grossing films was Jurassic Park, made in 1993. Very few films before the turn of the century are on this list.

Speaking of surprises, in our magazine, 6 Degrees of Film, the comments about the buzz surrounding the pick for a new James Bond actor were intense. Some of the fans of Tom Hardy and Clive Owen weighed in, and both of these picks have my wholehearted endorsement!

The controversy of Idris Elba taking the role to become the first black James Bond continues. There were some mixed feelings about this, but he is a talented actor who would infuse the role with some much needed energy.

One comment from reader g Nelson was: “…enough with the juvenile movies based on comic books meant for an 8 year old.” Here, here Mr. Nelson! In the book, 6 Degrees of Film, there is a section devoted to the concern that filmmakers (Peter Bogdanovich is attributed with the quote) had about the “juvenization” of movies that was taking place. This has been an ongoing concern for many serious directors and film auteurs going on about forty years now.

Coming to the end of April, the films that are being released are still considered either Indie or those small scale films that lead us into the next season. And today most film sites are honoring the immensely talented director Jonathon Demme, who has died at the age of 73.

Hollywood Buzz: Upon learning of the death of director Jonathon Demme, many film sites such as Rolling Stone have listed some of Demme’s best work. Here’s a partial list: His documentaries: Swimming to Cambodia; Stop Making Sense and Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains; the comedies: Melvin & Howard; Something Wild and Married to the Mob. His masterpiece: The Silence of the Lambs, and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate plus his last film, Ricki & the Flash-released in 2015. Many stars and legends have been weighing in on this extraordinary director, dead at the age of 73, most notably Jodie Foster and The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Critics Review: The Circle with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks has mostly poor reviews. Summer movies are still being rolled out, and in mid-may, our Summer Newsletter will have a listing of some of the most promising picks. This week, Ebert.com reviews Obit  a documentary about the New York Times obituary department. The Promise is also reviewed favorably on Ebert.com. The highest grossing Spanish language film in US history: Instructions Not Included from 2013 has been remade as How to Be a Latin Lover, and it’s scheduled for release this week.

One of the most positive films in terms of reviews this week is The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, a film about a boxer that was made in Finland and shot in black and white. (See my remarks about black and white from a couple of weeks ago!)

Critically Speaking: One interesting perspective in Film Comment comes from Mark Harris, the critic and author of the 2008, Pictures at a Revolution. Harris has explored the changing culture through the production and filming of five of 1967’s Best Picture Oscar nominees. The films were Bonnie and Clyde; The Graduate, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and Doctor Doolittle And continuing on that theme, he examines the Audrey Hepburn/Albert Finney film: Two for the Road, which can be described as uneven at times. It’s an interesting concept, again explored at length in 6 Degrees, as the counter revolution of the sixties swept all aspects of our culture, most especially through the films released in this period.

We had some discussion of the classic Bonnie and Clyde, a few weeks back, which was the film that launched the great film critic Pauline Kael’s career, as she praised the ground-breaking film at the time.

Martin Scorsese is returning to his directing roots and filming The Irishman, with De Niro, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel, which may prove that this famed director of Raging Bull and Goodfellas perhaps is best when he’s in his element-gangsters and tough guys from New York.

The top prize at the Tribeca Film Festival went to Keep the Change, a love story about autism that starred people who are diagnosed with autism. And to keep the controversy rolling, Cannes 2017 has added the convicted child molestor and film director Roman Polanski’s latest movie Based on a True Story, to their official selections. We’ll see if the protests are again going to keep Polanski out of the running in the end.

And finally, it’s hard to believe they are celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Austin Powers release. The film is one that was based on the idea of a retro look at the swinging sixties, and is still fresh and funny twenty years later. Oh, Behave!

Best to all as we head into the Summer Film Season and a new month. See you at the movies!-ML


6 Degrees Friday Flix

6 Degrees of Film

The Friday Flix is basically a list of the threads that tie together to become part of the 6 Degrees of Film. For those who may not find the connections in older films, and the notion that everything old is new again, we’ve decided to keep the 6 Degrees theme for our Friday Flix weekly film review. And naturally, that applies to our online magazine, 6 Degrees, as well.

For this week in film, there’s a good piece that ranks all the James Bond films. On Flipboard, (Favorite Things for Writers), the Bond blog takes it to extremes with the question of Bond’s salary, which seems to be stretching it a bit far. But Bond movies are in the news as companies are salivating over the bids by studios to take over the successful franchise.

There is one article that lists recommended search engines for films. With the recognition that many sites are offering free streaming movies to view, and so many types of either “niche” postings for horror or comedy or comics, there are way too many places to list. But the ones that we all know: Netflix, IMDb, and Rotten Tomatoes are certainly on there, and then there’s the newer and –I hate to use this word- “hipper” ones which are Criticker-which finds movies to watch; Clerkdogs-which uses a film you like to find similar types; and the highest recommendation went to Jinni. You can search films or find new films and reviews on this site. So check it out….?

Recommendations are included for two big film festivals- Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, opening this week, and Cannes Film Festival in France. Classic films and films stars will be honored, as well as premieres of art films and other major productions. One retrospective will feature Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” documentary (hard to believe Moore’s films are old enough to start doing retrospectives of them!)

The Summer Film rollout seems to come earlier each year. It used to be the end of May, but now we see the films rolled out the week after Easter (which this is!). The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is big (no surprise), and Guy Ritchie’s re-tool of the King Arthur legend is opening soon with Jude Law and Charlie Hunnam as Arthur.

Goldie Hawn is back in a comedy with Amy Schumer, Snatched, opening Mother’s Day weekend. Another comedy that features a female cast is Rough Night with Scarlett Johannson, about a bachelorette party in Miami gone wrong. A female styling of The Hangover perhaps?

For those awaiting the return of Will Ferrell to comic form, he is starring in The House, with Amy Poehler, about a couple who try to convert their basement into a casino.

The prequel for Alien-Alien: Covenant opens in May. Pirates of the Caribbean has another entry with a returning Johnny Depp. Baywatch has been widely publicized, and stars Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Wonder Woman kicks off the Summer Season in June with Gal Gadot in the title role.

For kids, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is also in June, based on the popular book series. Also for kids, Cars 3 from Pixar with Owen Wilson as the voice of Lightning McQueen. And Despicable Me 3 opens June 30th with Steve Carell returning in the third installment.

For adults who are still Tom Cruise fans, Tom is re-booting The Mummy franchise. For young adults, there’s The Book of Henry, about an 11 year old who discovers a secret about the family next door.Transformers is back in June, titled: Transformers: The Last Knight.

And the sequels and comic book series keep on coming with Spider-Man: Homecoming, starring Tom Holland. Then there’s War for the Planet of the Apes.

One that looks good is from director Christopher Nolan, and features Tom Hardy and the acting debut of Harry Styles-it’s the WW II drama Dunkirk, coming in July.( There’s a trailer on our site for this one). We’ll have more in the next week with a full list of the Summer Movies opening. But there are a few here that look pretty good, amidst the sturm and drang of the sequels and prequels.

One film that has an anniversary and therefore, is getting some renewed attention features Jack Nicholson’s masterful performance in “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, based on the book by Ken Kesey. The book is great, and the film is recommended viewing for anyone who has never seen it. Check out the review on 6 Degrees.

One funny post was a list of actors who “sell out” to make movies. My friend and I used to talk about, in particular Michael Caine, who seemed to always be in these parts where he was just walking through and picking up a paycheck. We always called these actors “whores” for money (as a joke!). But it is easy to spot the talented actors who are seen from time to time in films where there is not much story, little need for a range of emotions, just lots of money and wasted talent on display as the veteran actors trudge through, sometimes gamely, as guns for hire in these plotless wonders.

One interesting development over at Turner Classics has veteran Alec Baldwin stepping in as host for The Essentials on TCM. Should be good!

The films that are reviewed this week, besides Rear Window from Ebert, are The Handmaiden, Colossal with Anne Hathaway, The Promise with Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, Unforgettable with Katherine Heigl-which has mixed reviews, The Lost City of Z from the McGuffin site and Free Fire, also on McGuffin.

There’s also a biopic of Emile Zola and Paul Cezanne called Cezanne et Moi, a review of director David Lynch’s masterpiece, Mulholland Drive, and a review of Their Finest from our friends at Salty Popcorn. There’s also a review from Time magazine in 1977 of the Academy Award winner, Annie Hall, from Woody Allen.

Other film news is an adaptation in the works of Fahrenheit 451, done by HBO Films. And there’s a piece on the classic Mike Nichol’s film of the sixties, ‘The Graduate” starring Dustin Hoffman. Sofia Coppola is remaking “The Beguiled” with Nicole Kidman starring in the remake of the Clint Eastwood film from the seventies.

There’s a blog post making the case against the genre of Film Noir. That may be true for some aspects of a defunct genre, with the very few films even being made in black and white, but there is a very real and distinct place in the annals of cinema history for the Film Noir genre. In my book, 6 Degrees of Film,there’s a chapter devoted to The Rise of Film Noir.

Noir brought us the antihero, and with it, the rise of actors like Humphrey Bogart, who really found his footing playing these cynical characters always with a touch of gallows humor. There is such a thing as New Noir also, and if you’ve ever seen a film made in Noir style and shot in stark black and white, you usually remember it. My final thoughts from 6 Degrees were that although it’s out of vogue at the moment in Hollywood, if it’s done right the genre can produce great cinema; done poorly, it becomes camp.

Also of note: a post on Filmmaking in the Age of Social Media. It is a good discussion as the way we view films and perceive reality is at times different after we have lived with Social Media and the age of the Internet.

And along these lines, there’s an article on Film Inquiry about favorite opening credits. That’s a good one to mull over, as some of the most innovative and interesting film ideas reveal themselves as we watch the opening credits of movies and see how a director or a filmmaker can portray something that we may have watched dozens of times, but with a new twist or a different visual perspective, we see things with fresh eyes. That’s part of the beauty of film and it’s what keeps us going back for more. Till next time, 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