Pioneers of #MeToo

6 Degrees of Film: March Round Up: Celebrating Women’s History!

Greetings Film Fans! The month of March has brought us lots of good news from the world of film. We are celebrating Women’s History month here at 6 Degrees, and the spotlight is on the rising number of women who are directors of both independent and major Hollywood films. To be fair, there have been many powerful women in Hollywood working behind the scenes at the studios for decades. But the role of auteur and the vision and focus that a director can bring to a picture is one that has not been explored by enough women throughout the history of film. Rotten Tomatoes has a post on the 165 Best Movies directed by women in the 21st Century. Other notable news is the mixed reviews received for Eddie Murphy’s anticipated comedy sequel Coming 2 America-which was described several times as a ‘retread.’ There’s also an interview with the director of the film Craig Brewer. Another anticipated film released is Raya & the Last Dragon, which is reviewed on Rogerebert.com And there’s a question now being floated around about the true meaning of the cinematic experience and if that is achievable if movies are going to be streamed from now on?  Martin Scorsese asks the question, and we also hear from Forbes’ film critic Scott Mendelson. Mendelson looks at the consequences of Hollywood prioritizing the streaming services over the existence of a successful film opening at the box office as they did in the ‘old days.’ (Pre-Covid!) Meanwhile, back at the Turner Classic Movie place, there is a new era where the old films that were written and produced in the ‘bad old days’ of big studios and the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood are getting a new look and some much-needed analysis. The scrutiny is part of the screenings going forward at TCM, so this should prove interesting!  Turner Classic: Strong Women at the Movies The women in movies come from different backgrounds and work in various genres: Musicals, westerns, comedies, all sharing This month the strong women who were pioneers of Hollywood film share the same common denominator-a strength of character that permeates the scope of the film, whatever genre be it a Western, a musical or a comedy. They include this month’s ‘Star of the Month”- Doris Day, as well as Olivia de Havilland and Katherine Hepburn. Westerns In three of the featured westerns: The Westerner, Calamity Jane and Red River, the women are not always center stage (with the exception of Calamity Jane), but the roles are written for smart women who are tough and can survive in the old west. The Classics Lawrence of Arabia is one of the films often seen on the top ten lists of famous critics (In 6 Degrees, it comes in at Number Four!) We have it described as such: “A not so simple tale based on the real-life exploits of T.E. Lawrence, the famous English adventurer. The deceptively simple quality of this complex man is introduced at the beginning of the film when various people try to describe him with each coming up with a different description” A Man for All Seasons swept the Oscars with multiple wins for Best Actor and Best Picture. The 6 Degrees Connection in our top 100 list has A Man for All Seasons at Number sixty-six. The film has a basis in true historical events- It’s from a play based on the true story of Sir Thomas More, a man who stood on his principles and refused to use his influence to obtain an annulment for King Henry VIII and paid for his refusal with his life. The de Havilland Decision Olivia De Havilland is featured in Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. This was an early role for De Havilland before she put her foot down about accepting parts in films that were not to her liking. Here’s an excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film talking about the landmark case brought by Olivia de Havilland and known as the ‘de Havilland Decision.’ Olivia de Havilland also fought studio bosses, winning a landmark decision against onerous hiring practices in what became known as the de Havilland Decision. She began her film career at the age of nineteen starring in Captain Blood with Errol Flynn. She was under a seven-year contract with the Warner Brothers film studio, a standard contract for all performers, who signed their lives away when they agreed to the terms. She was “loaned out” to David O. Selznick for her memorable part in Gone with the Wind, which earned her an Oscar nomination in 1939. After that, she demanded better parts beyond the same old sweet-young-thing roles she had been playing. The studio not only refused but slapped her with a six-month suspension, another standard practice of those who wielded absolute control. The last straw came at the end of her seven-year contract, when Warner Brothers informed her that she had to make up the lost six months from her suspension. Adding time to contracts was another standard operating procedure to keep actors in line. This time, de Havilland sued. The court ruled in de Havilland’s favor, stating that not only did she not have to make up the suspension, but all future seven-year contracts had to hold to the intent and not force extra time from suspensions on the contracted actor. The de Havilland Decision paved the way for better treatment for actors from the omnipotent studio bosses. Olivia de Havilland was right in her decision to hold out for more quality roles. She won an Oscar for her performance in The Snake Pit, one of Hollywood’s early attempts to portray serious subject matters such as mental health problems. As one of Hollywood’s pioneering women, she has paved the way for all female actors and for all women working in Hollywood Comedy Murder by Death is the Neil Simon film adaptation notable for its stellar all-star cast.  Overboard was remade recently, but the original is the best.

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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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6 Degrees Film Round up: Olivia de Havilland & her Landmark case

Hello film fans: 6 Degrees cannot let another moment pass without mentioning the death of Olivia de Havilland. In 6 Degrees, the importance of strong women who helped shape the progress of Hollywood and the movie industry is one of the major components of the book-6 Degrees of Film. From the earliest days of the film-making industry, there were some strong women who influenced the course of the Hollywood machine.  Olivia de Havilland was one of the women who stood up to the system and helped change the course of film-making with her landmark lawsuit against the studio system. Here’s an excerpt from 6 Degrees of Film talking about the de Havilland case: Olivia de Havilland also fought studio bosses, winning a landmark decision against onerous hiring practices in what became known as the de Havilland Decision. She began her film career at the age of nineteen starring in Captain Blood with Errol Flynn. She was under a seven-year contract with the Warner Brothers film studio, a standard contract for all performers, who signed their lives away when they agreed to the terms. She was “loaned out” to David O. Selznick for her memorable part in Gone with the Wind, which earned her an Oscar nomination in 1939. After that, she demanding better parts beyond the same old sweet-young-thing roles she had been playing. The studio not only refused but slapped her with a six-month suspension, another standard practice of those who wielded absolute control. The last straw came at the end of her seven-year contract, when Warner Brothers informed her that she had to make up the lost six months from her suspension. Adding time to contracts was another standard operating procedure to keep actors in line. This time, de Havilland sued. The court ruled in de Havilland’s favor, stating that not only did she not have to make up the suspension, but all future 6 Degrees of Film 15 seven-year contracts had to hold to the intent and not force extra time from suspensions on the contracted actor. The de Havilland Decision paved the way for better treatment for actors from the omnipotent studio bosses. Olivia de Havilland was right in her decision to hold out for more quality roles. She won an Oscar for her performance in The Snake Pit, one of Hollywood’s early attempts to portray serious subject matters such as mental health problems. As one of Hollywood’s pioneering women, she has paved the way for all female actors and for all women working in Hollywood   Round up for September: The future of film is in jeopardy. At least, the way we experienced watching films in years past. The pandemic has created a real uncertainty around the future of cinemas. We may find that huge movie theaters may become multi-purpose auditoriums for meetings and business groups, as well as theaters showing films. Drive in theaters have been experiencing a resurgence in popularity, and that’s a good thing- they are a unique and fun way to watch movies. The films we were expecting to see this summer, the Bond movie and the Christopher Nolan film, plus the new Wonder Woman movie-all were postponed and pushed back or slated for online debut. Film Festivals have gone virtual, and the future of the Oscars is undergoing some major overhauls; and the Academy Award changes are long overdue! The coronavirus has been deadly and is still with us, but the changes it has wrought, at least for those of us who love movies, is something that will stay with us for a long time Stay well friends, and till next time, see you at the movies! ML

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6 Degrees: Women of Note at the Movies

Hello Film Fans: In honor of Women’s History Month, there is a list of films that were showcased and highlighted this past month on Turner Classic. I recommend to record as most are seen fairly regularly or are easy to rent. Some of these women were groundbreaking pioneers as there characters on film show us that we have always revered women who are smart and funny and courageous. It’s not always been easy to find your niche when Hollywood had the casting couch and the Golden Age of Film was not known for championing women’s causes or for enlightenment. But a new day is dawn, and we are not turning back. Here’s a list of films and women who were featured this past month on Turner Classic: Carole Lombard in To Be or not to Be: Carole Lombard was known as one of the most versatile comediennes of her era or any other. She really played straight man to Jack Benny in this piece. Benny’s timing was unmatched, but Lombard kept up with him and she gave the greatest performance of her short career in this classic Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep: In the “Me Too” era, some would find fault with many performances and personas that sprang from the forties and fifties female stars. But Bacall was really a path setter, and gave as good as she got in keeping up with Humphrey Bogart’s very cynical and world weary characters. Bacall was not simpering, but tough and smart and funny, which was a distinct contrast to the wide-eyed dumb blonde routines that Marilyn Monroe and other big stars used as the standard for female stars throughout the fifties. A few bucked the trend, like Bacall and Katherine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn, but most were conformers. Eleanor Parker: Many Rivers to Cross: Eleanor Parker is best known for the classic Baroness with evil intentions as she set out to catch Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music. But she was a great comedienne and actress in her own right, and this was a light comedy that veered off from many others of the fifties era in which it was made. As stated earlier, the persona for many was the dumb blonde, but in setting out to ‘get her man’ in this frontier comedy, Parker is athletic and funny and smart and determinedly setting a different standard for women to emulate. I saw this film as a young girl and always remembered the counter-typical character portrayed here of a woman who is bound and determined to get what she wants and goes after it with everything she has. And in the short blurb in the beginning of the film, it’s obvious that there is some recognition that women had to be rugged individuals with strength and character in order to survive in the early days of our country’s founding. Myrna Loy: The Bachelor & the Bobby Soxer; Myrna Loy was the antithesis of the ‘dumb blonde’ throughout her career. She was not blonde, of course, and the characters she portrayed embodied some of the sharpest and wittiest dialogue ever written for film. In The Thin Man, she made her mark along with William Powell as a woman who is determined to be more than just ‘the little wife’ who stays home and simpers while her man does all the dangerous work. And in this film with Cary Grant, she plays a judge who has the measure of the Cary Grant character and he knows it. She is smart and completely in control of every situation, and that is a pleasant departure from some of the standard Hollywood fare of the Golden Age of Film where women were often portrayed as either femme fatales or hopelessly dumb. Sigourney Weaver in The Year of living Dangerously: Sigourney Weaver has made a career of landing these pioneer roles where women are the front and center heroes, as in Aliens where she takes charge and essentially carries the role that a man would have played a generation before her. And in this film, The Year of Living Dangerously, she’s a journalist who is not only the most ethical of the characters, she is also vulnerable but worldly wise at the same time. It’s a truly amazing performance from a young Sigourney Weaver, and a very prescient moment when we hear of the Mel Gibson character described as someone who is charming but fatally flawed. Women’s History Month showcases some of the film roles where strong and decisive characters are developed in this selection of beautiful and brainy women. We have seen the creation of the characters that Angelina Jolie played, that Jennifer Lawrence has perfected along with the new Captain Marvel star, Brie Larson, and the emergence of the women in Black Panther. The latest Mad Max film with Charlize Theron finally has tipped the hat to the notion that women are as tough and courageous and resourceful as men. Here’s hoping for another one hundred years or so of creative and brilliant characters for women to play, and for women to write and direct (and women critics to critique!) Till next time, see you at the movies-ML

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