AWFJ Wonder Women Are Coming! — Marilyn Ferdinand reports

Tired of waiting for the usual suspects to declare another Year of the Woman? Never fear. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists celebrates women all year every year—but especially this year! In honor of the 10th anniversary of AWFJ’s founding, we’re publishing the AWFJ Wonder Women project, an annotated list of the top 55 fictional female characters in movies from the birth of cinema to the present. Every Monday from Aug. 1 through Aug. 29, we’ll release the names of eleven fabulous women characters on our list, counting down to our members’ number one favorite. Get ready to cheer for our bevy of kickass heroines, outspoken working women, good-time gals and other unforgettable characters who comprise the AWFJ Wonder Women.

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ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, HOOLIGAN SPARROW, SUMMERTIME, PINK ZONE and other July 22 Openers — Reviews by Jennifer Merin

absolutely fabulous posterAbsolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the screen adaptation of the BBC sitcom, has BFFs Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) in hilarious misadventure on the Riviera, eluding police who want for them for the disappearance and/or possible murder of fashion icon Kate Moss. Silly. Hilarious. Absolutely delightful. Hooligan Sparrow chronicles Chinese human rights activist Ye Haiyan’s dramatic protests against forced prostitution and for justice for school girls sexually assaulted by a Hainan Provence principal. First time director Nanfu Wang risked her safety to make this real reveal about women’s rights in China. For feminist drama, Catherine Corsini’s Summertime stars Cecile De France and Izïa Higelin as star-crossed lesbians working out their passionate relationship in conservative rural France. Lights Out is a femme-centric horror flick with psychological roots that twist the plot into compelling, authentically scary family drama. Pink Zone is a scary futuristic sci-fi flick in which mean girls must work together to escape a deadly virus. First time director Benjamin J. Walter wrote, directed, shot and edited Pink Zone as his thesis film for UCLA’s Directing Program. “Fight Valley” is a femme-centric actione that pins brutal woman-on-woman fighting sequences to a scant plot about a woman who joins an underground women’s fight club to find out who killed her sister. Don’t Worry Baby” is a romancedy that presents a worrisome narrative about two men who are vying for a woman’s attention, and they happen to be father and son. It’s a new take on an old theme, but the woman still serves primarily as the plot catalyst, and not entirely her own person. Read the reviews…

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OUR LITTLE SISTER — Revew by Susan Granger

Based on Akimi Yoshida’s popular graphic novel “Umimachi Diary,” Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Nobody Knows,” “I Wish,” “Like Father, Like Son”) has created a wistful, episodic melodrama about families. When the three twentysomething Koda sisters – Sachi, Yoshino and Chika – travel north to Yamagata for the funeral of their estranged father, they discover that they have a teenage half-sister (Suzu Hirose) from his second marriage. Read on….

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THE INNOCENTS — Review by Susan Granger

In Warsaw, Poland, after the Soviet Union defeated Hitler’s Germany in W.W. II, it’s estimated that the occupying Russian troops raped 500,000 women and about 100,000 of them subsequently committed suicide. Working with several credited writers, director Anne Fontaine (“Coco Before Chanel,” “Gemma Bovary”) was inspired by the true story of Madeline Pauliac, a French doctor and Resistance fighter, who helped a group of Polish nuns, most of them virgins, who were convinced that their ordeal has doomed them to eternal damnation. Read on…

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New Rules Yield Greater Diversity for AMPAS Board of Governors — Anne Thompson reports

Thanks to new rules, this year’s Academy Board of Governors race was more intense than usual. The Academy’s 17 branches each has three governors on the board; they can serve three consecutive three-year terms. One seat is up for reelection every year. The Board of Governors actually runs the show at the Academy, determining the strategy and mission, and keeping tabs on its financial health. This year, the race was opened up to allow any of the 6200-plus Academy members to run for the board. Before, the membership voted for 50% of a nominating committee that selected candidates to present to the Board. This yielded the same favorites over and over again. Read more>>

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THE INFILTRATOR — Review by Susan Granger

It’s a new twist on a familiar story, as a law-abiding everyman becomes entangled with Pablo Escobar’s Medellin drug cartel. Back in 1986, Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) was a devoted husband and father, working as a U.S. Customs agent in Tampa, Florida. In the opening scene, he’s about to make an undercover drug deal in a bowling alley when the microphone strapped to his chest overheats, the excruciating pain almost blowing his cover. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, July 17 – July 23: ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS THE MOVIE

absolutely fabulous posterOpening July 22, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, the big-screen adaptation of the hit UK TV show starring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as fashionista best friends Eddie and Patsy Read on…

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GHOSTBUSTERS, GHOSTHEADS, THE INFILTRATOR, EQUALS, CAFE SOCIETY and more July 15 Openers – Reviews by Jennifer Merin

ghostbusters posterGhostbusters in no way satisfies the clamor for more women’s stories on screen. Ghostheads, a documentary about the phenomenally loyal fans of the Ghostbusters franchise, doesn’t delve into the controversy over Feig’s female reboot, but shows the impact the original has had on people’s lives. The Infiltrator is the truth-bases story of undercover agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston), who bagged Columbian drug lords with female partner Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), a brilliant rookie agent. Equals, a dystopian romance, stars Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult as star-crossed lovers in an era when human emotion is completely repressed. Café Society also stars Stewart as the “love interest” in Woody Allen’s latest glam romantic romp set in the 1930s. The Blackcoat’s Daughter is an unnerving twist on the horror genre, set in an all-girls Catholic boarding school. The Student Body is Bailey Webber’s first film, documenting her protest against state-mandated body mass index (or BMI) testing of her high school peers. Don’t Blink – Robert Frank is Laura Israel’s profile of the life and work of the legendarily inventive photographer and filmmaker, creator of images for the ages. Read the reviews>>

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GHOSTBUSTERS: When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough — Commentary by Thelma Adams

I rolled my eyes the moment I heard about a Ghostbusters reboot with an all-woman cast—even if it teamed Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones. What’s next The Revenant with chicks? The She-Wolves of Wall Street (O.K., that’s Working Girl)? The Hateful Eight with seven menopausal women and one abused eunuch? Word to the studios: We lack penises, not brains! Read more>>

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GHOSTBUSTERS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

ghostbusters-poster-kate-mckinnon Holy moly, Kate McKinnon has gone and created an instantly iconic new character in gleefully reckless physicist and tinkerer Jillian Holtzmann. Little girls and grownup women alike are, I guarantee you, going to be merrily cosplaying a gal who is simultaneously a snappy dresser, a devil-may-care snarkster, a master of the mysteries of the universe, and a creator of cool crap that goes boom. Holtzmann is nothing like any female character The Movies have ever seen. She is powerful in a way that has nothing to do with her appeal to men. She is brainy comic mayhem… Read more>>

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