Betsy Bozdech

Betsy Bozdech is the Executive Editor of Common Sense, for which she also reviews films. Her film reviews and commentaries also appear on Reel.com and Hollywood.com.

 

Articles by Betsy Bozdech

 

MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 15: THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR

motw logo 1-35Using the horrific 1944 gang rape of a black woman by white men as a jumping-off point to examine systemic issues of race, class, and power in the United States, Nancy Buirski’s documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor” is stirring and powerful. Like many other 2017 films, including “Detroit,” “Mudbound,” “Strong Island,” and more, “Recy Taylor” makes it abundantly clear that the complicated history and politics of race and gender are more relevant — and frustrating — than ever. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 8: THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES

motw logo 1-35In “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” well-manicured lawns, sprawling houses, and groomed beaches can’t prevent family turmoil from wreaking havoc in the life of teenage Medina (Maika Monroe). Yet the melancholy drama, written by Karen Croner, features a particularly strong performance by Jennifer Garner, who plays against type as Sandy, Medina’s neurotic, insecure, emotionally unstable mother. Continue reading...

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 24: THE DANCER

motw logo 1-35Chances are, even people who wouldn’t describe themselves as “into dance” have heard the name Isadora Duncan and know something about her career and tragic death. But what about dancer and performance artist Loie Fuller, the innovator of modern dance who helped propel Duncan to superstardom in the early 20th century? Stephanie Di Giusto’s drama “The Dancer” remedies that by telling the story of Fuller’s complex, fascinating and often-heartbreaking life and career. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 24: BOMBSHELL – THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

motw logo 1-35“Bombshell” is the perfect title for a documentary about Hedy Lamarr. Not only was Lamarr a renowned Hollywood screen siren (aka a “bombshell”), but she also helped invent signal-hopping radio-based technology that was used to guide Allied torpedoes (literal bombshells) during World War II, a system whose DNA can be seen in the Bluetooth and WiFi systems we all rely on today. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 17: THE BREADWINNER

motw logo 1-35The Breadwinner is a powerful, gorgeously animated film about Parvana, a remarkable little girl caught in untenable circumstances in Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan. From the studio and filmmakers who previously gave us The Secret of Kells and other animated gems, “The Breadwinner” isn’t your typical mainstream “cartoon” fare. Based on the same-named novel by Deborah Ellis (who has co-screenwriting credit with Anita Doron), director Nora Twomey’s remarkable film tells a deep, thoughtful story replete with elements of both pain and joy, despair and hope. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 10: MUDBOUND

motw logo 1-35Telling the intertwining stories of two families — one white, one black — living on the same piece of rural Mississippi farmland in the 1940s, Dee ReesMudbound blends strong performances, notable cinematography, and heartbreaking human drama. It’s clear things are going to get grim from the opening sequence, in which adult brothers Henry and Jamie McAllan (played by Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund, respectively) try to bury their father despite the onslaught of a torrential downpour, which leaves both men shaken and covered in mud. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 3, 2017: 11/8/16

motw logo 1-35Anticipation. Excitement. Hope. Worry. Fear. Anger. Despair. On November 8, 2016 — election day — tens of millions of Americans felt one, many, or all of those emotions, no matter who they voted for. And the wide-ranging, collaborative documentary “11/8/16″ brings all of those big feelings right back to the forefront as it chronicles a day that many of us wish we could forget (or at least do over) but that history will always remember. Continue reading…

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Horror Movies and Kids: A Scary Combination — Betsy Bozdech, Liz Whittemore, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell and Jennifer Merin comment

scary movies 4A new CableTV survey about horror movies that’s making the rounds this pre-Halloween week reveals, among other things, that the average age at which the (presumably adult) respondents saw their first horror movie was 7.2 years old. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that today’s kids are in the same boat, we’ve all noticed members of the PG crowd at decidedly R-rated movies — in fact, my 7-year-old daughter’s second-grade classmate recently told her that he’d seen “It.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: October 27: NOVITIATE

motw logo 1-35If your idea of life in mid-20th-century convents is all about kindly nuns solving problems like Maria and climbing every mountain, Novitiate will be a real eye-opener. Writer/director Margaret Betts’ first feature-length drama tells the sometimes-bleak story of Cathleen (Margaret Qualley), an earnest young woman from Tennessee who decides to take the veil in the early 1960s, on the eve of the far-reaching Vatican II reforms that would change traditional church life forever. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 20: THE DIVINE ORDER

motw logo 1-35Several decades after the Sexual Revolution swept across the United States (and around the world) during the late 1960s, it’s all too easy to gloss over just how earth-shattering a change the movement for greater feminine freedom made in the lives of so many women and their families, and to women’s roles in society. Petra Volpe’s entertaining political dramedy, The Divine Order, tells the story of unstoppable women who defied local traditions and oppressive husbands to fight for greater personal freedom. The film offers a compelling reminder of why we must continue to press forward for women’s rights. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 13, 2017: TAKE MY NOSE…PLEASE!

motw logo 1-35Any woman who’s ever felt dissatisfied with any aspect of her appearance — so, pretty much every woman — will find something to relate to in “Take My Nose … Please!” Documentarian Joan Kron (directing her first film at the age of 89!) blends her subjects’ personal stories with a broader survey of the media’s impact on female body image to create a film that’s simultaneously provocative and empathetic (as well as frequently laugh-out-loud funny). Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 6, 2017: FACES PLACES

motw logo 1-35Celebrated filmmaker Agnes Varda is no stranger to making films about everyday, relatable people — including herself. FACES PLACES, her collaboration with photographer/artist J.R. (he’s known only by his initials), chronicles the pair’s friendship and partnership while introducing audiences to a wide range of French people, who share their communities and fascinating stories with Varda and J.R. in exchange for powerful, personalized public art installations. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 29, 2017: FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER

motw logo 1-35Heartbreaking and powerful, First They Killed My Father is Angelina Jolie’s adaptation of activist Loung Ung’s memoir about her childhood in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge’s murderous regime. In the film, young Loung (Sareum Srey Moch) and her family — mother, father, several siblings — are enjoying a comfortable, happy life in Phnom Penh in 1975; then Pol Pot’s army marches into the city, abruptly orders everyone else out, and rounds them up into work camps, where they’re expected to obey orders instantly and give up any pretense of individuality or agency. It’s all for the greater good of their new-and-improved nation, they’re told. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 22 – 29, 2017: BATTLE OF THE SEXES

motw logo 1-35Battle of the Sexes takes its name from the historic 1973 grudge match between tennis superstar Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and former champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). But the movie is about so much more than that singular game, no matter how big that game turned out to be. It’s about acknowledging and accepting who you are, standing up for what you believe, and using your voice to fight for the people who need you. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 15 to 22, 2017: DOLORES

motw logo 1-35It’s a safe bet that many folks, if asked to name someone associated with the United Farm Workers of America union (originally the National Farm Workers Association), would draw a total blank. Some might come up with Cesar Chavez. But very few are likely to mention Dolores Huerta, despite her countless contributions to the UFW beginning in the 1960s and her continuing role as an outspoken intersectional activist who fights for feminism, civil rights, environmentalism, and more. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 8 to 15: STRONG ISLAND

motw logo 1-35Infuriating, fascinating, and deeply emotional, Strong Island is the deeply personal chronicle and commentary by documentary filmmaker Yance Ford about his search for an explanation of and accounting for why the man who killed his brother was never charged with the crime and walked away without any punishment. Yance’s brother, William Ford, a young African-American man, was shot and killed in 1992 by a White auto mechanic after a verbal altercation at the repair shop where the latter worked. William’s death shocked the Ford family and left them devastated. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 25 – September 1: POLINA

motw logo 1-35Raw, emotional, and creative, Valerie Muller and Angelin Preljocaj’s Polina is an engaging story about a young Russian dancer who needs to find her inner self before she can truly lose herself in her art. With strong and compelling performances both on and off the dance stage, the film is a powerful look at managing others’ expectations, having the courage to take chances, and believing in yourself. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 18-25: DETROIT

motw logo 1-35Intense. Infuriating. Immediate. Kathryn Bigelow‘s powerful, often-heartbreaking historical drama Detroit is all of these things and more. Set amid the chaos, violence, and anger of the riots that dominated Motor City during the summer of 1967, the film’s narrative focuses on the police brutality that took place at the Algiers Motel on July 25 and 26 of that year, and the justice system’s subsequent whitewashing of that heinous event. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 11 to 18, 2017: PATTI CAKE$

motw logo 1-35Opening August 18, Patti Cake$ tells the story of aspiring New Jersey rapper Patricia “Killa P” Dombrowski, portrayed by Australian actress Danielle Macdonald in a breakout perfomance. Patti lives with her single mom, Barb (Bridget Everett), and grandmother, Nana (Cathy Moriarty), in near squalor in urban New Jersey. Barb spends her evenings getting drunk and bitterly reveling in memories of her youthful days of near-stardom as a pop singer — a dream that fell by the wayside when she got pregnant with Patti. Patti, without outbursts of rebellion or resentment, sustains the family with menial jobs, while literally dreaming every night of stardom, as over-the-top visions of famous rapper O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah) float through her sleeping mind. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 28-August 4: STEP

motw logo 1-35An inspiring documentary about a group of African-American teen girls who find success through a mix of hard work, grit, high expectations, and dedicated mentorship, Amanda Lipitz’s Step is both engaging and uplifting. It follows the competitive step-dancing team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a public charter school with a very ambitious goal: that all of its graduates attend college. Continue reading…

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WATCHING GENDER: How Stereotypes in Movies and on TV Impact Kids’ Development — Betsy Bozdech reports

It’s no secret that what kids see on screens has an impact on what they believe and who they become. That’s particularly true when it comes to gender; media that perpetuates rigid gender roles and stereotypes can affect kids’ sense of self, relationships, and career aspirations. Common Sense Media’s new research brief, “Watching Gender,” explores the effects of gender-biased media (specifically in TV and movies) on children’s development. It’s all part of the Gender Equity Is Common Sense initiative, which will lead to the creation of new tools and strategies to promote positive role models and representations for kids everywhere. Continue reading…awfj gender image study

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Bentonville Film Fest Women-on-the-Street, Part Three — Betsy Bozdech reports

BFF_Logo_Transparent2017_Scaled_100At the Bentonville Film Festival, female filmmakers find themselves surrounded by mentors, peers, and filmgoers who celebrate women’s creativity and success in every aspect of the entertainment world. Attracting women at every career level, the annual event encourages diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, and provides the ideal ambiance for taking a feminist pulse on the industry by collecting comments on topics of importance. AWFJ’s three-part BFF Woman-on-the-Street series does just that. We caught up with 2017 attendees (including festival founder Geena Davis) to gather their thoughts on key issues of concern to women in film. The first and most pressing question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. The first question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. Then we asked them what woman (or group of women) in history should have her story told on screen, but hasn’t yet. And, finally, we requested their thoughts on which characters they consider role models for young women and girls who are eager to see a wide range of female characters in the media. Read on…

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Bentonville Film Fest Women-on-the-Street, Part Two — Betsy Bozdech reports

BFF_Logo_Transparent2017_Scaled_100At the Bentonville Film Festival, female filmmakers find themselves surrounded by mentors, peers, and filmgoers who celebrate women’s creativity and success in every aspect of the entertainment world. Attracting women at every career level, the annual event encourages diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, and provides the ideal ambiance for taking a feminist pulse on the industry by collecting comments on topics of importance. AWFJ’s three-part BFF Woman-on-the-Street series does just that. We caught up with 2017 attendees (including festival founder Geena Davis) to gather their thoughts on key issues of concern to women in film. The first and most pressing question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. Now we ask them what woman (or group of women) in history should have her story told on screen, but hasn’t yet? Read on…

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Bentonville Film Fest Women-on-the-Street, Part One — Betsy Bozdech reports

BFF_Logo_Transparent2017_Scaled_100At the Bentonville Film Festival, female filmmakers find themselves surrounded by mentors, peers, and filmgoers who celebrate women’s creativity and success in every aspect of the entertainment world. Attracting women at every career level, the annual event encourages diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera, and provides the ideal ambiance for taking a feminist pulse on the industry by collecting comments on topics of importance. AWFJ’s three-part BFF Woman-on-the-Street series does just that. We caught up with 2017 attendees (including festival founder Geena Davis) to gather their thoughts on key issues of concern to women in film. The first and most pressing question was about the current challenges they face in getting their work funded, produced, and recognized. Read on…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 2 -9: SAMI BLOOD

motw logo 1-35“Sami Blood,” set primarily in 1930s Sweden, tells the heartbreaking and eye opening story of Elle-Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok), a teenage girl of the Sami, a semi-nomadic indigenous people whose highly sophisticated traditional culture and way of life are completely intertwined with the reindeer they herd and breed throughout Northern Scandinavia. Framed by contemporary scenes in which an elderly Elle-Marja (now known by the Swedish name of Christina) reluctantly returns to the homeland and traditions she fled as a girl, the film is a moving coming-of-age story about a young girl wrestling with issues of cultural identity and destiny in addition to all of her typical teenage angst. Continue reading…

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