Armchair Film Fest

6 Degrees of Film: February Film Round Up

Oscar News This month, February is a preview of things to come. And for things delayed! The Oscars will be held this year on Sunday, April 25th, so there will be a few months to go yet before the Oscar “Buzz” and predictions heat up. A good indicator always for the Oscar nominees are the many award shows that precede it. The Golden Globes, the SAG (Screen Artists Guild) awards, the BAFTA (British Equivalent of Oscar) and the Sundance Film Festival all preview some of the pre-eminent films of the past year. CODA won the Sundance Film Festival Best Picture; and Frances McDormand will surely be a nominee for Best Actress in Nomadland; plus the late Chadwick Boseman has been nominated in multiple categories for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. For current information and up to date reviews of the latest award nominees and winners, check out 6 Degrees of Film magazine each week. Tributes to those we lost We just heard of the passing of Christopher Plummer, an exceptional actor who after so many credits, will always best known for his role of Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.” Cicely Tyson also died recently, and that fact only serves to remind us of the talents of those pioneers who helped to break barriers for African-American women in film. Black History Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is one of the films that is showing at the movies and is streaming currently. And as mentioned, the late Chadwick Boseman has broken ground for nominations in a variety of categories, for roles in Ma Rainey’s as well as the many memorable roles he created. Boseman, like Mr Plummer in Sound of Music, will be known primarily as the defining character in the Black Panther Marvel series. Some other notable films for Black History Month include Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner starring Sidney Poitier, playing on Turner Classic this month.  But I would recommend the original documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X with Denzel Washington for those who seriously want to delve into Black History. The movie: The Black Panther is another obvious choice to watch, as well as Hidden Figures, both of these films being much more recent and notably well received. Chadwick Boseman was also brilliant as Jackie Robinson in 42 and to complete your viewing, there is his turn as the famed first Black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, playing Marshall as a rising young lawyer in the early fifties in the film- Marshall. Armchair Film Fest At 6 Degrees, each week we highlight the film events as well as the small screen feature films that are notable enough to record and watch (Sometimes known as “Binge-watching”!)….This month on Turner Classic Movies, they are featuring: Comedies with Mel Brooks: Blazing Saddles and The Producers are shown this month, both starring Gene Wilder. Robert Ryan: The Film Noir star is a particular favorite of mine-he is featured in Marine Raiders, The Set-up (Directed by Sound of Music director Robert Wise), and a Western-Trail Street. Romantic Valentine’s: For those who would like to see something romantic around Valentine’s Day, know that some of the most enduring romantic couples of all time are found in Hollywood’s Golden Age films. Casablanca features one such couple, and Doctor Zhivago features another. Alas, (Spoiler alert), both are films about a timeless love that endures, but if you are a fan of happy endings- Love doesn’t always lead to ‘Happily ever-afters” even in Hollywood! The state of Hollywood films in 2021 There are still many delays of big-studio films due to the ongoing Pandemic. James Bond will wait till November to debut with Daniel Craig in his last Bond film-No Time to Die. Some films will be released for streaming and On-Demand due to COVID-19 concerns. Stay tuned for announcements as the release dates have changed frequently these past months. That’s all for now, folks, and like everything else during the era of Covid, we will have to wait and see what the next few months bring in terms of Oscar nominations as well as the release dates for this year. Denzel Washington is currently starring in The Little Things, one of the films listed as popular at the drive-in’s, if you are lucky enough to find one near you!  Check it out if you can…Till next time, see you at the movies!-ML

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February Film Round up

6 Degrees Holiday Film News: The Armchair Film Fest for December!

This month on Turner Classic Movies, I’m seeing a slew of favorites for those of us who love the idea of the “Armchair Film Fest.” I like to record several films from favorite directors and actors that are shown in one block to watch during the month. Last month it was Cary Grant, this month we are back to Hitchcock and another favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart. Bogey is in “Sabrina” with Audrey Hepburn in this 1954 comedy, as well as the classic Casablanca from 1942. Hitchcock is also prominent in December, with some of his best work featured in Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window, and Marnie with the late, great Sean Connery. Christmas Season For the Christmas season, there is the 6 Degree staple: The Shop Around the Corner. The reason it’s so apropos for 6 Degrees is that the film has been remade three times. The Shop around the Corner is the original and the remake with Judy Garland is called In the Good Old Summertime and was set as a musical in 1949. Finally, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan remade it with “You’ve Got Mail” 6 Degrees of Film has some recommended posts from our own archives to recommend this month. We have a post on Casablanca, one on Lawrence of Arabia and on the legacy of James Dean in film. (Paul Newman and Steve McQueen films are both showing this month!) Comedy There is a bonanza of comedy gold this month (also on TCM),  with a full filmography for the funniest comic duo in history, Laurel & Hardy. There’s the first unofficial appearance of the pair in Putting Pants on Philip all the way through to the fifties when they were both past their prime. Some of the recommended records are: Laughing Gravy Putting Pants on Philip The Music Box Way out West  Brats Our Relations Towed in a Hole (I love this play on words as Stan Laurel was English and this is from their well-known breakfast Dish: “Toad in a Hole” which is sausages cooked in egg!) Other comedies of note for December on TCM include Ma & Pa Kettle at Home with Marjorie Main and The Long, Long Trailer, starring Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz in a  1954 film made during their long running hit TV show: I Love Lucy. The afore-mentioned “Sabrina’ is also hilariously funny, one of Bogey’s few comedies. For those who may tire of Laurel & Hardy, there is one of Charlie Chaplin’s best silent films, The Gold Rush with Charlie in a cabin in Alaska where he is searching for gold while dreaming of a saloon girl and fighting to survive the harsh winter conditions. Westerns The Westerner is being shown on Dec 18th; Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan star in this Western from 1940. It’s a must-see for all those who love Cooper and Westerns. I particularly like this one as it isn’t shown as frequently as later films with Cooper. Walter Brennan excels as Judge Roy Bean, the man famous for his love of the theatre star Lillie Langtry. John Wayne stars in a Western directed by John Ford from 1940, The Three Godfathers.  It’s more of a spiritual departure for Wayne, who is one of three outlaws that learn the meaning of sacrifice when they become the guardians of a newborn baby and find themselves stranded in a barren desert. Three Godfathers was also made with Walter Brennan as one of the three outlaws in 1936. Strong Women: Pioneers in Hollywood 6 Degrees is always interested in highlighting performances from pioneering strong women in Hollywood. This month, there is one of my favorites, Myrna Loy, in the entire film fest of The Thin Man series shown on New Years Eve. You really cannot go wrong by ringing in the New Year with Nick and Nora Charles, the sleuths starring in an entire Thin Man movie marathon on New Years Eve. Other strong women highlighted include the great Marjorie Main, so funny in Ma & Pa Kettle at home. There is Katherine Hepburn in The Lion in Winter as well  as Guess who’s Coming to Dinner with Spencer Tracy. I feel the latter one is dated, but it’s worth seeing, as the climate of the times made this a particularly controversial subject of a black man wanting to marry a white woman. I love The Lion in Winter, but like The Outlaw Josey Wales and a few Cary Grant movies, I can’t watch it all the way through as I know all the dialogue! Spoiler alert: I’m a huge spoiler! There is also some interesting Turner Classic shows for those of us who love film and film criticism. Film buffs will know of the work of Pauline Kael, not only a strong woman writing in a man’s world and excelling, but also a damn fine film critic. She is featured in The Art of Pauline Kael, made in 2018. Along with it, another interesting piece from 2009 is For the Love of Movies: The story of American Film Criticism. The James Dean Legacy in Film The Thomas Crown Affair from 1968 stars Steve McQueen and Cool Hand Luke features Paul Newman.  These two films illustrate part of my long-running theory turned essay: The James Dean Legacy in film. Both these actors inherited the mantle of ‘cool’ and began their careers about the same time that James Dean did in the late fifties. So many of their later roles were in keeping with the type of loner/rebel character that James Dean was known for and became his legacy. 6 Degrees Magazine on Flipboard This week in 6 Degrees Magazine, there’s an interesting discussion on the history of the Marvel Movie Cinematic Universe on RogerEbert.com.  Also in the magazine, several posts talk about how the studios are still reeling from the most difficult period in the history of the film business.  Warner Bros. studios just announced that all of their new films will debut in online streaming format through 2021. 

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6 Degrees of Film Book

6 Degrees of Film November Roundup: The Armchair Film Fest Edition

The entire month of November has reminded me of Dr Strangelove, one of my favorite Kubrick films. The idea was that Stanley Kubrick read this very serious screenplay and after finishing it, said no one would believe it isn’t a dark comedy! The past few years, in fact, have been like a page out of Strangelove! This month on Turner Classic Movies, we recommend our Armchair Film Festival attendees should record: The Stanley Kubrick Fest: Featuring Dr Strangelove: How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Bomb, showing this month on Turner Classic and featuring Peter Sellers in three parts, including the infamous Strangelove himself.  2001: A Space Odyssey is also showing (Doubles as part of our Sci-Fi fest too!) Hitchcock Festival: Rear Window/ The Birds/ Marnie & Torn Curtain These are some of my favorite Hitchcock films showing this month on TCM.  They show The Birds and Rear Window frequently, but Marnie is one that isn’t shown as much. Some of the more misogynist overtones of the Hitchcock era are on display in Marnie, but the psychological aspects of character are rarely explored in films of this era. In The Birds, Hitchcock is at his most “Hitchcockian” level in this film with Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor. There is a theme of the quiet rebellion that flows throughout the film. The terror is in the quiet moments really, where the gathering flocks are massing. Torn Curtain is another one that doesn’t get a lot of air time. One of the more memorable scenes is one where Paul Newman, who is trying to escape from behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War era, is discovered as a spy and struggles to kill a man. The struggle is so intense and real that later Hitchcock remarked that he wanted to depict the act of murdering someone as something that is not easy, as was often depicted in films. Instead, it was difficult and showed the violent act as it might actually occur when someone is fighting for their life! The Pioneers of MeToo:  Myrna Loy in The Thin Man is  at her best trading witticisms with her screen husband William Powell in this film series based on Dashiell Hammett’s characters. Myrna Loy reprised this role for a series of films as the cool and collected wife, Nora, helping her detective husband Nick Charles, solve crimes.  Gene Tierney in The Ghost and Mrs Muir is also cool and collected in this romantic ghost story/fantasy about a young widow with a daughter (young Natalie Wood!) , who moves into a house that’s haunted by the powerful personality and spirit of a dead sea captain, played by Rex Harrison. The Hurt Locker – This film is memorable in the annals of “#MeToo” history as it was the first to give the Academy Award for Best Director to a woman. We have had some wonderful female directors in years past: notably Sofia Coppola, Ida Lupino, Penny Marshall, and many other brilliant women filmmakers who paved the way.  But it was not until 2008 that the Academy decided to give the award for Best Director to Kathryn Bigelow. My Brilliant Career -Judy Davis has had a remarkable career, and this Australian film, beautifully photographed and also starring Sam Neill, is one that was considered a breakout performance for Davis. It was one of the few films that depicted the life of a young woman, in an era that Jane Austen and others knew well, where the only way to advance your career was to marry! Davis’ character had different ambitions, and this film was one of the first to show an independent young woman from Victorian life who was not set on simply settling for marriage. Comedies to record: A Hard Days Night is a film that could be considered a musical comedy. It was so unique for its time, as were the Beatles, and that makes it hard to categorize. There are some funny moments with the four ‘mop-top’ lads from Liverpool as they get ready for an appearance on a television show and the camera follows them through a “Day in the Life” of their meteoric rise to fame.  Duck Soup is one of the Marx Brothers films that I find easiest to watch. There are funny moments with the Marx Brothers, but you need to be in a certain mood to simply not worry about plot and the logic of plot points. The lingering chaos that reigns in all Marx Brothers films is held together by the steady influence of the surrounding players such as  the character actress Margaret Dumont, seen in so many of their movies. She leaves us with the lingering impression of permanent fantasy with the closing lines: “Hail Freedonia!” (A perfect metaphor for a chaotic Election Season!)  My Favorite Year is just a standout performance from Peter O’ Toole and one of his rare comedies. Earth Girls are Easy is a film from 1988 that features a young Jim Carrey in a breakout performance as one of the aliens who lands in Geena Davis’ home.  The Paleface with Bob Hope was remade as The Shakiest Gun in the West with Don Knotts.  The two films are shown side by side, with Bob Hope and Don Knotts playing the same basic role of a fish out of a water. They both play a dentist who winds up in the Wild West and is saved in both instances by a beautiful and tough frontier woman who is handy with a gun! Marjorie Main in Ma and Pa Kettle probably laid out the baseline character for so many of the rural comedies that made it to television in later years. There was the Beverly Hillbillies,  then Green Acres, both hit comedies of the sixties.  Some may remember The Real McCoys with Walter Brennan, which predated both of the hit TV shows.  All of them were shows depicting comic life in rural America. No one was funnier than the original

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6 Degrees of Film: October Round Up

  Greetings Film Fans! For me, the fun part of every week is to go through my Six Degrees of Film magazine and put together the top stories in film. We go through the film news, reviews, classic movies and top bloggers on film. We’ll see what the latest releases are and the line up of films to record for our Armchair Film Fest! Turner Classic Movies is best for small screen classics to set to record each week. This week, I’m excited to see the Director’s Cut of Lawrence of Arabia. It never gets old to hear that beautiful music and to be pulled in to the epic story out in the deserts of Arabia. The October Round Up: Meanwhile, back in the La La Land of Hollywood, we discover that many of the top films of 2020 have been pushed into 2021. James Bond is a major disappointment for me, as I’ve been waiting to see No Time to Die with Daniel Craig in his final outing as 007, for the entire year! It is now slated for April of 2021. Along with Bond, the other movies slated for this year: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier , Black Widow, and The Batman with Robert Pattinson, are all pushed into 2021. Christmas releases  that are still slated (subject to change) include Dune, Wonder Woman 1984 and Pixar’s Soul. But everything is up in the air in this time of Covid-19. Fall Film News of 2020 This section has really become: How is Hollywood coping with Covid? And the answer is, like everyone else, it is struggling wildly. The rich will still be rich in Hollywood, but the business people who run the popcorn stands and small movie houses are slated to either go out of business or continue to struggle through the rest of 2020. Some winners in the Pandemic: Drive-in movie theaters have become a fun and nostalgic kind of throwback era that has caught on with many towns and cities. The Film Festivals have gone online, for the most part, and they will survive to become energized and revived for 2021. I have always been a fan of documentary and Indie films that are low-budget gems. The great RBG documentary is seeing a revival with her passing, and we now see there is a great documentary streaming now about the life and horrific murder of the Arab journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who worked for the Washington Post. It is called Kingdom of Silence. Armchair Film Fest: Set to Record for October 2020:   And finally, the October Round up is not complete without the classics we recommend to record in October.  This month, there is always a surfeit of horror classics as well as the Bad-B’s that we know and love.  On Turner Classic this month: I mentioned Lawrence of Arabia: The Director’s Cut– This one I recommend as a Bucket list item to see in all its glory at least once in your lifetime. You will understand more about human nature, as well as the problems we have currently in the Middle East after watching this film.  Bogey stars in Dark Passage:  Bogey and Bacall in their last film together (They were set to make another one but he got sick and died before they could make it!) Great Comedy gems this month: Laurel & Hardy star in A Chump at Oxford. One of my favorites with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard is the original version of To Be or Not to Be; it was remade with Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks, but this one is the best. The Shop around the corner has been remade and is one of the most enduring of all the remakes in Hollywood .This version has Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as the bickering co-workers who discover romance,  but they don’t know that it’s with each other! This was a musical with Judy Garland and Van Johnson, and finally a modern update with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail. Casino Royale is a ‘spoof’ of James Bond with the always debonair David Niven. The catchy soundtrack helped this to become a hit when it was released in the sixties. Bye Bye Birdie is a spoof on the Elvis craze, and this film with Dick Van Dyke and a young Ann Margret still holds up well. We love the Bad B’s here at 6 Degrees! Each month, the Bad B’s of Hollywood are found on Turner Classics. Sometimes it’s the old beach movies of summer, or as in this month of October, it’s the horror films that were made in all their low-budget splendor. For example, I had not seen Plan 9 From Outer Space in a while, so I taped it last month and watched some of it. The operative word for most of these is the fact that you can only watch SOME of it! For my own part, I still like Glen or Glenda best in the Ed Wood Hall of Shame film category. But Plan 9 is a legitimately classic model for all really bad movie fans. The Brain that wouldn’t Die, also on the schedule this month, is another top contender for me in the bad movie pantheon. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was made in Florida, so that one has some good stand out trivial moments. And I did not remember Gojira, which was one of the films that spawned the slew of Japanese horribly horrible horror classics. Halloween Horror Carnival of Souls:  I defy anyone to match this original for giving you the heebie-jeebies on a dark Halloween fright night!   Strong defining women-Hollywood Pioneers of #MeToo Each month, we pick out some stand out performances for women who paved the way for all strong and enduring characters in films and in real life. At first glance, you would never put Doris Day movies in that category But Doris Day in Please don’t eat the Daisies makes the cut.

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Casablanca: Who wrote what? An excerpt from upcoming “Six Degrees of Film”

Casablanca Script authorship of Casablanca also was disputed, only this time it was writer versus writer who vied for the lone credits. Someone said about this B movie classic, “One of the charms of Casablanca lies in its awkwardness. Not only do the politics and romance sit side by side, but that there are two or three contrasting manners of style. There’s the comic-cynical, the soppy-elegiac, and the solemn-propagandist … [It’s] not so much a story as a stringing together of great moments to remember. How, and in what order we remember them is left to us, and this is part of why we like the film so much.”[i] Four authors claim to be the true author of Casablanca. There is Howard Koch, who claimed he was brought in “to shape the film’s politics”; the brothers Julius and Philip Epstein, who wrote as a team; and Casey Robinson. Robinson said that he had the idea for a film “out of a ‘lousy play’ called Everybody Comes to Rick’s.” According to Koch, the story was, “So they start shooting and Hal comes to me and says, ‘We need some help. There’s a little trouble.’ Bogart had said, ‘I won’t shoot this __________’; and he had used a very nasty word and gone home.” Ingrid Bergman on the Casablanca shoot said this: “Every day, we were shooting off the cuff; every day they were handing out dialogue, and we were trying to make sense of it. No one knew where the picture was going, and no one knew how it was going to end … We said, “Well, who are we?” … and Curtiz would say, “We’re not quite sure … It was ridiculous. Just awful … Bogart didn’t know what was going on, so he retired to his trailer … I wanted to know who I was supposed to be in love with, Paul Henreid or Humphrey Bogart?”[ii] The Epstein brothers had gone on to another project for Frank Capra and were not available, so they sent the script in from Washington page by page. Two scripts were floating around, one from the Epsteins and one from Howard Koch. Robinson was brought in to add the love-interest angle. It was apparent that “none of them knew he was working on a movie that would turn out to be something to boast about; all the signs were that Casablanca would be a stinker.”[iii] The facts are this: The film used some lines from the play, Everybody Comes to Rick’s, including the line “Then play it, Sam” and the song As Time Goes By. The irony was that Julius Epstein was not proud of his part in scripting Casablanca. He called it “slick shit,” and said, “Casablanca is one of my least favorite pictures. I’m tired of talking about it after thirty years. I can explain its success only by the Bogie cult … I can recognize that the picture is entertaining and that people love it. The whole thing was shot in the back lot. Furthermore, there were never any such things as letters of transit around which the entire plot revolved. The movie is completely phony.”[iv] [i] Adaptations from Short Story to Big Screen, Harrison, S. Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005 [ii] Adaptations from Short Story to Big Screen, Harrison, S. Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005 [iii] Adaptations from Short Story to Big Screen, Harrison, S. Three Rivers Press, New York, 2005 [iv] Mank: The wit, world, and life of Herman Mankiewicz, Meryman, Richard, Morrow, 1978

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