Dorothy Woodend

Dorothy Woodend has been the film critic for The Tyee since 2004. Her work has been published in magazines, newspapers and books across Canada and the US, as well as a number of international publications. Dorothy is also the Director of Programming for DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver.


Articles by Dorothy Woodend



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Where would we be without Shirley MacLaine? Ever since her first appearance in cinema (Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry), the woman has proven to be a wild card in the best sense of the term. Think of the jilted office girl that captivates Jack Lemmon in The Apartment, the ripeness and sass of Sweet Charity, or the remarkable mother from hell in Terms of Endearment. La MacLaine injects a tartness, intelligence and slyness into her performances that elevates even the most well-trod of narrative tropes. Read on…

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motw logo 1-35From Nowhere has the peculiar timing of being released in theatres in the midst of the current maelstrom around immigration in the US. The film premiered last year at the SXSW Festival, where it picked up an audience choice award. Back in those innocent and unsuspecting days of yore, the film was relevant and topical, but now it is essential. As the US president threatens to muster the National Guard to round up  the undocumentedFrom Nowhere offers up a portrait of three young lives caught up in this Kafkaesque situation. Read On….

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Horror and fantasy film have long been a birthplace for emerging talent. Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, and Gareth Edwards – all cut their teeth in genre cinema before moving onto other things. Director Anne Hamilton is in fine company, and her new film American Fable emerges from this august tradition, trailing references aplenty. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Feb 3 – 10: I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

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Raoul Peck’s impeccable and rigorous film I Am Not Your Negro comes at a moment when cinema is creating new conversations about race. Ava DuVernay’s 13TH, Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight, Denzel Washington’s Fences, Hidden Figures, and Loving – all contend in different ways with oppression, prejudice, and racial hatred. Read On… 

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Jan 27 to Feb 3: SOPHIE AND THE RISING SUN

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Director Maggie Greenwald’s film Sophie and the Rising Sun is distinctly old-fashioned, sturdy in its construction, stolid even, but with fine details of time and place that add depth and grain to the action. The film is a handsome affair about interracial romance and racial prejudice, and although it occasionally traffics in sentiment, the solidity and strength provided by the female cast keeps it focused on rational tolerance, womanly solidarity and a little old thing called love. Read On…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week January 20-27, 2017: 2OTH CENTURY WOMEN


Director Mike Mills has a way with women. His new film 20th Century Women, coming some six years after Beginners in 2010, has been described as a love letter to his mother. But it is also a portrait of a time and place, and a collection of people perched on the edge of enormous change.

It is 1979, the last staggering breath of the 70s era of drugs, sex, and social revolution is about to give way to the big bold 80s. This transitional moment is embodied by Jimmy Carter’s infamous Crisis of Confidence speech. But inside this larger moment in history, smaller crises are also taking place. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, January 13 – January 20, 2017: 13TH

13Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13TH was the first nonfiction film to open the New York Film Festival. The film has gone on to garner numerous prizes and is currently shortlisted for the Academy Awards.

The 13th amendment provides a point of departure, but the film is far more than investigation of mass incarceration in the US. It is a history lesson, a cinema essay and cogent and irrefutable indictment of the economic and cultural policies that are the enduring legacy of slavery. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, January 6 to 12: HIDDEN FIGURES

hiddenfigures-pHistory has a way of disappearing women. This is particularly true when it comes to women of colour. Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures interweaves the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. The film’s title is a gentle nod to the math necessary to plot the orbital trajectory of a rocket, but also to the women who helped to build the American space program. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, December 30 – January 5: TONI ERDMANN


Maren Ade’s film Toni Erdmann is something no one could have predicted. A three-hour German comedy about a father and daughter reunion, set against the contemporary bleakness of corporate Bucharest. On paper, this sounds like something you would run away from, screaming at the top of your lungs. But Ade’s film is simultaneously a sly take down of Neoliberalism’s economic practices, a family drama of uncompromising nuance and complexity, and a humanistic ode to the anarchic spirit that dwells inside each of us. The film has consistently popped up on critics’ top-ten lists and packed in the awards. It is fully deserving of every accolade. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, December 19 – 23, 2016: JULIETA – by Dorothy Woodend

julieta_poster-copyPedro Almódovar’s 20th feature film Julieta is an adaptation of three Alice Munro stories. At first glance, the Spanish auteur and the Canadian writer wouldn’t appear to have anything in common. But they both share a dedication (perhaps obsession) to detailing the secret lives of women. Curiously enough, they are also united by an attraction to the more lurid, preposterous, and occasionally downright cruel twists of fate. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, December 12 – December 16, 2016: THE FOUNDER

founder-posterWhen a travelling salesman named Ray Kroc discovered a hamburger stand run by two brothers, he caught wind of a golden opportunity and so began the story of McDonalds.  It is a tale of mendacity, betrayal and corruption. A certain kind of brutal vindictiveness was a hallmark of Kroc’s business style. After stealing their name and effectively destroying the McDonald Brothers’ business, Kroc built a franchise just across the road from the original restaurant as a final point of insult. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, December 5 – December 9, 2016: La La Land

1Sheet_Master.qxdMovie musicals. They come and then they go. And then sometimes they come back again. La La Land, the latest from director Damien Chazelle is an homage to the acid-bright technicolor extravaganzas of old Hollywood. Romantic and swoony to be sure, but leavened with a modernist twist that cuts the schmaltz. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of The Week December 2: JACKIE


Mythmaking has long been a staple of American movies. Pablo Larraín’s film portrait Jackie tackles one of the greatest of American myths — that of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy. In the week following her husband’s assassination, Mrs. Kennedy granted an interview to Life Magazine. The film uses this as a framing device, and as an almost surgical means to dissect the psyche of its titular character. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, November 21 – November 25: Miss Sloane

Film Title: Miss. SloaneIf you have the stomach for corruption in the political arena, then director John Madden’s new drama Miss Sloane might be just the ticket. If you have had your fill of politicking, bad behaviour and ruthlessness in the real world, watching even more on movie screens might seem a little like an extended torture session. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, November 14 – November 18: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantastic-beasts-poster“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters.” – Antonio Gramsci’s famous phrase has been making its way around the internet at the moment. If anyone knows a thing or two about beasts and monsters, it is author J.K. Rowling. Way back in June, Ms. Rowling wrote a rather interesting and timely essay. Read on….

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, November 7 – November 11: Arrival

arrival-posterEnglish has always been the de facto language of science fiction. Even when James T. Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise embarked on their original five-year mission, every new alien species they encountered helpfully spoke English. When language fails, and aliens arrive, making odd noises and gestures, we had Independence Day’s Will Smith punching them in the face and saying, “Welcome to Earth.”  Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, October 31 – November 4: LOVING

loving-posterThe landmark case of Loving v. Virginia challenged the anti-miscegenation laws in the US, and arguably changed the country. But at the centre of the story were two people who, quite simply, were in love and wanted to be married.

Director Jeff Nichols’s previous film Midnight Special was a world away from the homespun, deeply humble reality of Richard and Mildred Loving. But the two films share a common attention to the reaction of people caught up in something larger that fractures and shatters their understanding of the world. In all of Nichols’s work it is the primacy of family and love that drives the story. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, October 24 – October 28: Gimme Danger

gimme-danger-poster-copyThere is a danger in meeting your idols, not only meeting them, but making films about them. The pairing of indie Auteur Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise) and Iggy Pop ought to have been a sonic blast that scraped the stage clean and left only a few raggedy bits clinging on. In fact, it is not. Rather it is a perfectly nice film about the rise and eventual implosion of the most seminal of punk acts, old Iggy and The Stooges. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, October 17 – October 21: Moonlight

moonlight-posterThe eight-year gap between Barry Jenkin’s first film Medicine for Melancholy and his sophomore follow-up Moonlight has been a source of some considerable anxiety, not only for the filmmaker himself, but for all the cinephiles eagerly awaiting Jenkins’s new work. Read More…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, October 10 – October 14: CERTAIN WOMEN

certain-women-poster-copyKelly Reichardt’s body of work, River of Grass (1994), Old Joy (2006), Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff (2010); and Night Moves (2013) has established her as a major American cineaste. Her latest film, Certain Women, maintains her masterful, yet quiet trajectory. The film, based on a series of short stories from Maile Meloy, features a remarkable quartet of women including Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and newcomer Lily Gladstone. Set against the small town vistas of the American Northwest, captured in bone-dry beauty by Reichardt’s longtime cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, Certain Women shares with her earlier films the same attention to truth, mediated by plainspoken compassion and humility. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, October 3 – October 7: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

girl-on-the-train-posterPaula Hawkins’s runaway successful novel The Girl on the Train is part of a new genre called ‘Mom Noir’, along with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and a number of other titles like The Woman in the Cabin or The Girl in the Red Coat. This new genre follows hot and heavy on the heels of ‘Mom Porn’ with the Fifty Shades of Grey series and The Twilight saga. The numbers are always touted when talking about such literary phenomena. The biggest selling, chart-breaking, hyperbole. What is less celebrated is the quality of the books themselves. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, September 26 – September 30: MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

miss-peregrine-posterThe origins of Ransom Riggs’s book Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children began with a collection of random photos that the author had scrounged together from flea markets and swap meets over the years. Riggs’s grab bag of oddities predominantly featured archival images of creepy-looking kids doing strange things. In one such photo a po-faced child with Pre-Raphaelite ringlets and a white party dress levitates a few feet above the ground. In another, a farm boy sits on the ground clutching two dead-eyed dolls. A certain aura of the ominous hangs over these images, like mist on a lake. They draw the eye, compelling viewers to search the edges of the frame for additional clues as to the source their power. Read On…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, September 19 – September 23: Queen of Katwe

queenofkatwe-poster-resizrIn director Mira Nair’s hands Queen of Katwe, the true story of chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi becomes more than a Disneyfied triumph. The film, based on Tim Crothers’s book of the same title, engages squarely with the reality of life in the Ugandan slum. Read On…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, September 12 – September 16: Bridget Jones’s Baby

bridget jones's baby posterBridget Jones, patron saint of single ladies is back. Long before the film entered theatres, it had picked up a small firestorm of controversy over its star’s changed appearance. Variety critic Owen Gleiberman shot himself, repeatedly, in the foot as he tried to maintain that Zellweger’s face was, in some fashion, a betrayal of ordinary beauty that had vaulted her to fame in the first two films. Read On…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, September 5 – September 9: CAMERAPERSON

cameraperson posterKirsten Johnson’s film Camerperson begins with a simple quote. “For the past 25 years I’ve worked as a documentary cinematographer. I originally shot the following footage for other films, but here I ask you to see it as my memoir. These are the images that have marked me and leave me wondering still.” Read on…

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