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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Capsule Review: Notorious-The Greatest Cut of all…

  Notorious is one of Hitchcocks best films. Why? Not because of the well-known movie stars that grace the film. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are at the top of their game, but ironically, it’s not their performances that stand out in this movie. In Notorious, Cary Grant’s character is that of a cynical and slightly skewed personality. He comes off as a tad less than his characteristically perfect self. The Ingrid Bergman character is one of a fallen woman. She’s the girl who’s “been around the block”. She’s seen it all, done it all and is not a candidate for the illusion of true love. Yet, one of the most memorable lines in Notorious is delivered by an obscure Austrian actress named Leopoldine Konstantin. She plays the well-developed Hitchock-ian role of the obsessively dominant mother figure. Not only does she delivers one of the greatest lines in all of Hitchcock, it could be considered as one of the definitive cuts of all time While the portrayal of Mothers in film usually conspire to be in a nurturing and protective role, as was so often the case with Hitchcock, the image of Mom is turned on its head. In this instance, “Mother” is someone who might give Lady MacBeth reason to pause, as the mom in Notorious is by far the more ruthless and calculating of villains in the piece. . That’s saying a lot, as the characters in the film are part of a group of Nazi sympathizers. Hitchcock was well known for the type of woman/mother figure portrayed by Madame Sebastian. In Marnie., the character of Tippi Hedrin’s mother was responsible for her young daughter’s psychotic behavior. In The Birds, Tippi Hedrin was again plagued by the domineering and darkly possessive mother figure. Then comes Psycho, with the most famously disturbed mother/son duo since Oedipus. In so many Hitchcock classics, we see a different image of  a Mom; one who is less than sweet as apple pie in most cases. Such was the world of Hitchcock. The line Madame Sebastian delivers is to her own son, Sebastian/Claude Rains, who comes to her in anguish over the discovery that his new wife, Alicia/Ingrid Bergman, is in fact a spy. Frightened of the ruthless gang of Nazi cohorts he is entwined with, he comes to ask his Mother, Madame Sebastian, for advice. Madame Sebastian pauses a moment to light a cigarette, the perfect bit of “business” that lends credence to her next statement. She then tells her son that all is not lost. Why? Because, she says, “You are protected by the enormity of your stupidity-for a time .” It’s then up to dear old Mom to come up with the idea of slowly poisoning Alicia. The line works so well because it is played in such a matter of fact manner and given just the right amount of understatement to make the subsequent actions so completely evil. And now, so many years later, I am reminded from time to time of the cool and utterly ruthless cut given to Claude Rains. Most of the time, it’s a self-deprecating phrase I use to put myself in my place. And it’s a saying that works every time. “No worries, my dear, you are saved by the enormity of your stupidity” It translates to mean that no-one could possibly fathom the thought that such a colossal mistake could be made. The Peter Principle in effect applies here. The notion that one almost always rises to the level of their complete incompetence. Of course no-one believes you are THAT incompetent! That is your saving grace… It is the type of clever cut that never fails to make its mark. Perhaps, as put-downs go, it is one of the truly great ones.. In the end, we are all protected by the enormity of our stupidity! Notorious is playing at Tampa Theatre this Sunday, July 10th at 3:00 pm.      

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