21st Century Films

6 Degrees of Film: January Round-up

Greeting Film Fans & Happy New Year to all! This is always an exciting time of year for those of us who love movies. The awards season begins in earnest, and soon the Academy Awards will announce the nominees for the Best Picture, Best Actor & Actress, from the past year, 2021. We have had a lot of lists of “Best of” which I have often derided as they sometime encompass a lot of the least of the ‘best’ simply to be able to announce the list! But there have been a lot of interesting films that have been made in the past year. As usual, the comic-book genre and the remakes are leading the pack in Hollywood with some of the ‘same old, same old’ schtick. But often, you will find a trailblazer embedded in there, such as Jane Campion’s Year of the Dog and the Licorice Pizza film with a different type of appeal. And so we are starting the countdown here with all the best of the best (lists, not movies!), from 2021. The “Best of” Lists of movies from 2021   Drive My Car appears on most of the top critics lists of films from last year. This film from Japan is about a widowed actor who confesses to his young female chauffeur that his late wife had been unfaithful. Annette proves to be an annoying favorite of critics. Adam Driver is a talented actor who plays a sociopathic stand-up in this film that really defies genres. Described as ‘part rock-opera, part celebrity satire…” this one is a head-scratcher in appeal at times The Power of the Dog is from director Jane Campion. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of our finest actors working, and he stars as a malicious brother who torments his new sister in-law within the confines of the ranch the two brothers own in Montana. Benedetta, from director Paul Verhoeven, is about a nun, Sister Benedetta, who lives in Italy during the 17th In the words of Film Comment, “Paul Verhoeven delves into the power of spectacle & the spectacle of power, affirming his place as one of cinema’s greatest social critics” The film deals with a lesbian relationship between Benedetta and another young nun, and yet it manages to go beyond the predictable and exploitative nature of the subject at hand. The Velvet Underground was an exploration of art in the era of Andy Warhol to see and experience personally the ideas…” to feel like you were discovering the music, and the ideas that were circulating and swapping form artists to artists during this time, yourself.” Licorice Pizza is the film from director Paul Thomas Anderson, a coming of age movie that is so named from the memories that Anderson had of a small shop named “Licorice Pizza’ in his California home town. The Card Counter is from director Paul Schrader and stars Oscar Isaac as a professional gambler who also happens to be one of the men who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Titane also makes the list, and this one is another ‘head-scratcher’ of sorts when people hear the part about a woman having sex with a car! A Cannes  “cause-celebre” break-out film, this film is described by Film Comment as a ‘wild, wild ride.’ Looking ahead…The Films of 2022   The Batman A long anticipated look at Robert Pattinson’s take on the title character. Paul Dano will appear as The Riddler in this outing of the caped avenger (Superman is the crusader, right?) Thor: Love & Thunder Chris Hemsworth will return as Thor and Christian Bale will play Gorr, the God Butcher in this outing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Just when you think you’ve had enough of all the comic book tropes, here is one that I would not miss. Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favorite actors, and he is also someone who makes the never-ending twists and turns of the Multiverse of Madness sound like an interesting adventure, as opposed to a maddening muddle!  (And now for something completely different…movies that aren’t about comic book heroes!) Downton Abbey: A New Era premieres March 18 Maggie Smith returns to move the action to her newly acquired villa in the South of France The Northman opens April 22 Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and a huge cast of stars appear in this Viking epic which is billed as a ‘brutal revenge thriller.’ 65 opens in April The multi-talented Adam Driver stars in this sci-fi thriller about an astronaut who crash lands on a mysterious planet, only to find he’s not alone… Recommended on the small screen: TCM in January On Turner Classic Movies, there’s a top ten list of favorite films to screen and record for the Armchair Film Fest! Lawrence of Arabia Sons of the Desert You can’t take it with you Picnic at Hanging Rock Dr Strangelove Mad Max (the original) The Verdict Red River Mr Blandings Builds his Dream House Burden of Dreams 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies And finally this week, our 6 Degrees magazine is featuring reviews of  The Tragedy of Macbeth with Denzel Washington, and Molly Haskell’s review of The Power of the Dog on Film Comment.com. Film Comment also has a thoughtful piece on the state of movies today in “Who Cares about Cinema?” And there’s a look at two Hollywood passages. The great actor Sidney Poitier is profiled on rogerebert.com, as well as the influential director and actor Peter Bogdanovich. The new movies, The Lost Daughter, directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal in her debut film. And  The Tender Bar, which is another coming-of-age tale. There’s a fun article on “The Night Stalker” the Darren McGavin cult TV classic, a preview of the Sundance Film Festival films, and a listing of the 25 films added to the National Film Registry, including Return of the Jedi. And to wrap it up, there’s a great piece from Cine-vue.com called “How Star Wars changed the film industry.” It is worth the read,

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6 Degrees: Fall Film News

Hello Film Fans! Welcome to the Fall film News from 6 Degrees of Film. This edition is chock full of news you can use. The fall films that are opening soon are featured, as well as some of the top issues we have discussed in past newsletters and throughout the pandemic. Sign up to receive 6 Degrees Round up in your box each month. Here’s what’s happening: About Hollywood & the Chinese Fandom Hollywood studios are hoping to be able to incorporate the growth of the burgeoning middle class of Chinese and Eastern countries with films such as the latest Marvel offering “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” Chloe Zhao, the first woman of color to win an Oscar for Best Director, will debut as the director of the new Marvel film, The Eternals, opening in November. ScreenRant offers their theory of why it took 20 years to make the latest Marvel comic film. The Great White Hope The Question is this. If there was a vote among top critics and fans, who might be the greatest American actor making films in the 21st Century? After passing the mantle of Nicholson and De Niro, there really is only one choice. Leonardo Di Caprio is the obvious pick.  Nicolas Cage is a contender for the title, as Tom Hanks is really the  everyman’s answer to the quintessential all-American film star. Hanks is a great actor, probably more in the mold of Jimmy Stewart. The Motion Picture Museum opens in L.A! Excitement for the Motion Picture Academy’s new Museum surrounds the iconic memorabilia on display such as Dorothy’s slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” and all the costumes from classics like “Gone with the Wind” or the original “Star Wars.”  Read more about the September 30th opening in the LA Times’  “The Ultimate Film Lovers’ guide to the Academy.” Some Random Film News Martin Scorsese talks about his favorite filmmaker (Spoiler: It’s Stanley Kubrick…Me Too, Martin!) AFI (American Film Institute) has honored the legendary film director Billy Wilder. Check out some of his films listed on TCM such as “The Apartment” and “Some Like it Hot.” Clint Eastwood is also being honored.  Some of his best roles are celebrated, including the iconic Spaghetti Westerns like ‘The Good, The Bad & the Ugly” as well as his Dirty Harry series. Films that fit well together: We can’t help noticing that the concept of the idea of double features of similar themes runs parallel in some ways to the concept of 6 Degrees Films. Films that go together are part of the 6 Degrees of Film book (Sign up to download “The List of 100 Films”) Books to read on Film Hayley Mills, a huge favorite child star of mine and countless other teenagers from the fifties and sixties, has written a memoir of her life as a Disney starlet entitled “Forever Young.” Other books of note include, “How 1940’s critics changed Film Culture,” which is reviewed on David Bordwell’s site.  Out of the Past website recommends “Cecil B DeMille’s Hollywood.”  Finally there is a book coming out about another huge favorite of mine entitled:  “Steve McQueen: In his own Words” The Multiverse within the Universe The Eternals debut will again set off debates within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For one thing, there are certain rules that apply within the Cinematic Universe. And they are rules that we apparently need to know!; The Multiverse rules include the recent fact that (Spoiler here!)…the Sacred Timeline was split into multiple directions, thus causing the creation of a multiverse. Apparently, there’s no one to stop it now! The Streaming Wars Streaming vs In-person premieres is an ongoing debate within Hollywood. We also have come to terms with how the movie industry has been changed forever…by the Pandemic and COVID. Forbes critic Scott Mendelson takes a look at “Tenet” and it’s disappointing box office returns.  Yet somehow “Tenet” has become a benchmark for new releases to aspire to! Finally in the streaming wars,  the gross for Black Widow further muddies the waters of the theater vs streaming debate. Here’s a quote on the Future of Film The following quote about the future of film-making comes from my 2013 book,  6 Degrees of Film:  “…The Industrial Light & Magic studios sprang from the creative genius of George Lucas. ILM was all about technology, and using it as a tool. Their future technology dream was “…of an interactive experience that would enable participants to explore virtual worlds or even inhabit the form of computer graphics characters. controlling the action with a joystick. “ ILM veterans also projected that in the future, theaters would “be able to use an electronic or laser-light projection system.” There was speculation that the many theaters would not be able to afford such an expensive process. However, the post-Covid world is not going to be one where there is a movie theater on every corner! Another article asks: Is Cinema Dead Again?…. and goes on to add, “…’no other art form has died as consistently as the cinema.’ Critics are always proclaiming it dead… Another post talks of  changes in how cinema works. For example, there are ways in the future of making the Marvel films more interactive. What does that mean? We could, in essence, ‘live’  inside the movies!  Virtual models and 3D Renderings are explored in another piece on the future of film-making, and it sounds very similar to the predictions that we saw from ILM over a decade ago! Pioneering women of #MeToo: The Strong women In my book, I write quite a bit about the many strong and pioneering women in Hollywood who stood up to the ‘man’ and were able to make their voices heard. This article from Entertainment Weekly  talks about Olivia de Havilland and her fight from the 1940’s where she took on the all-powerful studio system in Hollywood-and won. Here’s a quote from 6 Degrees of Film: “Olivia de Havilland also fought studio bosses, winning a landmark decision

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Thoughts on Superman: The Myth

I remember seeing Superman on the big screen for the first time. It was kind of exciting to be able to watch a comic book character come alive. And there was an element of shock and awe that the “big league film producers” decided to take the kids world of comic books seriously…seriously enough to produce a major feature film that starred Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando, no less! That was 1978. Now we live in the Golden Age of Comic Book Films and the screen is awash with these characters. We have explored the dark side of Batman at length with “The Dark Knight”. And the world was astounded when “The Avengers” became the  third Highest Grossing Film of all time, surpassing Titanic and Avatar. Comic book characters proved they are here to stay. And now we have another Superman. Superman is, from what I remember way back when we read the characters only in comic books, a character that lent itself to creating multiple universes. 1.There was a small bottle he kept in his Fortress of Solitude that contained an entire city from his home planet of Krypton. The people were all futuristic marvels. I believe his uncle may have even lived in the jar-Kandor was the name of the mythical city. So there were opportunities to create storylines just from that one idea-the city in the jar! 2. Of course, there was a Super Girl and a Super Dog eventually created in the course of the series. These also created multiple storylines. 3. In later years, they tweaked his ties to planet Earth by using sensational titles like, “Superman Gets Married!; Superman has a Baby! Or Superman Dies!” All of these plot twists came and went as we traversed the perils of Superman within the pages of the comics. 4. The Fortress of Solitude: What a wonderful name! This was the place Superman went to “get away from it all”. It was somewhere in the frozen tundra of the North, the Arctic would be a likely guess…. where only he could survive. He would go there to think and to meditate, I suppose, as the name implies. 5. There was one comic-book episode that always stood out in my mind. Scientists invented a ray gun that would make violent criminals into infants, and they would be raised again to fit into society and conform. This was a comforting thought that showed us even as kids there was at least one creative way to magically solve many of the problems in our society. Unfortunately, the ray gun doesn’t exist and Superman is not real. So we are faced with the problem of re-creating the fictional Superman character to accommodate each passing generation with higher technological advances and fewer glimpses of the simpler time from whence he came into existence on Earth. And now, we are learning to live with a new paradigm. The fast-paced modern world wants to see Comic Book Storyboards come alive every few years. So it comes to pass that the younger audience, not familiar with the world of comic books, sees this superhero with fresh eyes. And, of course, the movies make a lot of money for Hollywood. Therefore, we are going to see more of Superman and less of George Bernard Shaw’s “Man and Superman”. That is a fact.

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