Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read Merin's recent articles below. For her complete archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).

 

Articles by Jennifer Merin

 

PLAYER HATING: A LOVE STORY (2012) — Review by Jennifer Merin

player hating posterIn Player Hating: A Love Story, filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West follows Jasun Wardlaw, the talented hip hop recording artist known as Half-a-Mill, as he and his crew of ‘thugs’ prepare to release his first big record album. Half-a-Mill is hoping that the album will be the kind of success that will catapult him out of Brooklyn, New York’s crime-riddled Atlantic Housing Project, where he’s faced tough — no, make that dire — living conditions since his childhood. He’s deeply in need of some form of relief. And so are his family and friends. In fact, so is the whole neighborhood. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 20, 2018: 93Queen

motw logo 1-35If there’s one thing you’ll take away from watching “93Queen,” it’s likely to be this: You do NOT want to get in Rachel Ruchie Freier’s way. Paula Eiselt’s debut documentary follows this tenacious, dynamic woman — and those she rallies to her cause — as she launches the first all-female ambulance service in New York to serve the women of the Hasidic community in Borough Park, Brooklyn. The result is both a compelling glimpse inside an insular community and a fascinating portrait of a determined feminist. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 13, 2018: DARK MONEY

motw logo 1-35If you’re already feeling cynical about the current state of the United States, fair warning: Dark Money isn’t going to lighten your mental load. But filmmaker Kimberly Reed‘s intelligent documentary is unquestionably an important, timely expose of the dangers that shady untraceable corporate and ‘special interest’ funding of political campaigns poses to the ideals that many Americans still hold dear. Continue reading…

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DARK MONEY — Review by Jennifer Merin

Kimberly Reed’s documentary is an explosive expose about the tremendous threat the influence of concealed corporate funding of political campaigns poses to the democratic process and the legitimacy of our elections. Dark Money is a cautionary tale that shows how independent candidates for public office are targeted and defeated by special interest groups hiding behind nonprofit organizations that are funded by wealthy and influential individuals and.or corporations — the Koch brothers, for example — who are basically buying elections and gaining control of the future laws and policies of the United States, and the rights of US citizens. Reed follows an independent investigative journalist who takes a penetrating look at election regulations regarding campaign contributions, tracks dark money back to its sources and pulls the veil back on corrupt individuals who are abusing the basic tenets of our government. The well-researched and extremely important documentary is a political shocker that should be mandatory viewing for all Americans. Read full review on CINEMA CITIZEN

motw logo 1-35EDITOR’S NOTE: Dark Money is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for July 13, 2018

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AWARDS INTELLIGENCER: Early Oscars Buzz for LEAVE NO TRACE — Jennifer Merin reports

debra granik headBeloved by Sundance and other top film festivals, as well as by the Academy and indie awards organizations and a long list of awards-presenting critics groups, Debra Granik is attracting early Oscars buzz for Leave No Trace, her third narrative feature. AWFJ selected Leave No Trace as Movie of the Week for June 29, and an informal poll of AWFJ members shows that the film is placing high on most members’ lists of best 2018 films to date. AWFJ says Leave No Trace has legs that will lead to Oscars, come awards season. Continue reading on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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AWFJ Summer 2018 Movies Watch List

First compiled for Women’s History Month, the list of women-centric films we suggest for summer viewing celebrates women’s working in film. Ranging from mirth-filled comedies to truth-based stories of feminist activism, from gal pal road trip scenarios and inspiring biopics to exposes of the heinous evils of sexism and racism, these are films that illuminate, educate and entertain. Despite their diverse subjects and styles, these recommended films have one thing in common: they are all about women and they respectfully represent women’s perspectives on the social and political issues that we all face in daily life. Each film is a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come — and how much further we need to go. Make this a #MeToo summer of movie watching. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 29, 2018: LEAVE NO TRACE

motw logo 1-35Debra Granik’s “Leave No Trace” is a mesmerizing, intimate drama about a teen girl named Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) who lives completely off the grid in the Oregon forest with her veteran father, Will (Ben Foster). As the film opens, you think perhaps they’re just on a camping trip, but it quickly becomes apparent that the camp is their home. It’s a happy one for them — they clearly love each other and have built a life that works — but it’s in a precarious bubble. Continue reading…

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NYWIFT’s AfriAmerican Immigrant Screening: Local Stories, Global Themes – Madeline Johnson reports (Exclusive Guest Post)

nywift logoIn Astoria’s historic Kaufman Studios, filmmakers from the African diaspora shared local stories that reverberated deep into universal themes and questions as part of the fourth annual New York Women in Film & Television’s (NYWIFT) Women Filmmakers: Immigrant Stories screening on May 31, 2018. Highlighting narrative and documentary shorts about the New York immigrant experience, the selected films covered issues ranging from the #MeToo movement to Trump’s travel ban, and from the immigrant experience to what it means to be American. Continue reading on THE FEMALE GAZE

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Summer Docs Watch: The Missing Honeybees — Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

more than honey posterCommentaries posted across the internet report that as summer progresses across the nation, fields of clover coming to bloom sweeten the air with their delicate fragrance. But the web buzz is that the honeybees, usually attracted to pollinate the flowers, are in absentia this year, as they have been for several years past. Several extremely good documentaries that have been released during the past decade, have set off alarms about the missing honeybees by chronicling and explaining ‘colony collapse disorder,’ the phenomenon that threatens to put honeybees on the endangered species list, to upend the ecosystem and to disastrously disrupt our food supply. Continue reading…

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THE YELLOW BIRDS — Review by Jennifer Merin

yellow birds poster new small>Alexandre Moors’ powerful drama shatters notions that going to war makes heroes of ordinary men. Neither Bartle (Alden Ehrenreich), age 21, nor Murph (Tye Sheridan), who is barely 18, have any idea about what they want to do with their lives, so they join the military. They meet in basic training, and bond as brothers, determined to get through the military drill together. Their conmection is strengthened when Bartle meets Murph’s doting and very anxious mom (Jennifer Aniston), at an on base family dinner before the two deploy to Iraq, where they quickly learn that war is not a video game. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN…

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A LEAF OF FAITH — Review by Jennifer Merin

a leaf of faith posterIn A Leaf of Faith, filmmaker Chris Bell, best known for Bigger Stronger Faster about steroid ‘doping,’ pursues his ongoing concerns about drug issues by focusing on crippling, death dealing addiction to opioid painkillers. Having reached epidemic proportions, opioid dependecy — ranging from heroin addiction and overdose to synthetic opioid abuse while withdrawing from heroin and the prescription of opoids to relieve chronic pain — is currently among the top causes of death in the U.S. The stats are staggering. In his compelling investigation, Bell introduces and advocates for a possible solution — the use of Kratom as an alternative.
Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD — Review by Jennifer Merin

hitler's hollywood posterFilmmaker Rudiger Suchsland’s Hitler’s Hollywood is a compilation documentary that uses clips from films produced during the Nazi regime to show how the movies were used to indoctrinate the masses and influence their behavior. Subtitled German Cinema in the Age of Propaganda: 1933-45, the film is more analysis than homage, presenting a fascinating profile of how Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels used cinema to creates positive stereotypes and present mythic illusions about current and historic events that influenced the zeitgeist. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (2011) — Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

corman posterIf you have any interest in Hollywood history and love Tinsel Town lore, this comprehensive biodoc about the life and career of Roger Corman, the legendary ‘King of B-movies,’ will entertain and fascinate you — even if you’re not a big fan of the B-movie genre. Roger Corman, now in his 80s, and his wife and career-long producing partner, Julie Corman, rank high on the list of the world’s most prolific movie makers. They’ve produced and released as many as nine feature films during the course of one year, and only very few of their projects have failed to turn a profit at the box office. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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FOR WOMEN IN FILM, 2017 PRODUCED A BLOOM OF OPTIMISM ON THE HORIZON — Jennifer Merin comments

Annual stats tracking women’s work in the film industry consistently indicate that production gatekeepers are slow to welcome the work of female filmmakers, despite the recent successes of studio-backed femme-helmed and femme-centric blockbusters, and the ongoing inclusion initiatives of feminist groups such as the Alliance of Women Filmmakers and Film Fatales. However, despite the dismally static stats, AWFJ found an encouraging rise in the number of femme-centric and femme-helmed films released theatrically during 2017. Out of the 52 films we selected for #MOTW endorsement, 38 were directed by women. And, that number is even more impressive when you consider that for five of the year’s 52 weeks, we found no releasing films that met AWFJ standards for endorsement Continue reading…

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Chapman and Maclain Way talk WILD WILD COUNTRY, Bhagwan and Ma Anan Sheela — Jennifer Merin interviews

wild wild country posterThe Way Brothers’ six-part documentary, Wild Wild Country, chronicles the strange saga of self-proclaimed spiritual leader Bhagwan and his devotees, as they created a self-sustaining Utopian community in rural Oregon during the 1980s. Resenting their presence, local citizens and authorities pressured them to leave. Confrontations intensified, resulting in chaos and crime. Wild Wild Country is comprised of previously unseen archival footage shot inside the compound during the community’s heyday, intercut with on camera commentaries by surviving devotees and townees. The series is fascinating. So are the Brothers Way, who discuss making the documentary and their own conclusions about what this slice of history implies for American lifestyle and justice. Listen to my interview on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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NICKY’S FAMILY (2013) — Retroview by Jennifer Merin

nicky's family poster artIn Nicky’s Family, filmmakers Matej Minac and Patrik Pass use reenactment and impressive archival footage to tell the story of Sir Nicholas Winton’s amazing mission to save children from certain extinction in Nazi death camps. The filmmakers interviewed many of the children (now senior citizens) who were saved, and their descendants – all of whom consider themselves to be Winton’s family. Those who’ve been found and counted number about 6,000 souls. The film introduces many of them, letting us know what they’ve accomplished, including important scientific discoveries and social progress that might never have happened had the children not been rescued. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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LA CHANA — Review by Jennifer Merin

la chana posterCapturing all of the passion and personal expression that permeates flamenco and illuminates the dance form’s most engaging performers, Lucija Stojevic’s La Chana profiles the career and artistry of Antonia Santiago Amador, the hugely popular flamenco goddess revered by dance afficiandos for her force of nature spirit and extraordinary footwork. The great La Chana’s career peaked during the late 1960s, just before she inexplicably shunned her celebrity and mysteriously vanished from the dance world. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, March 9, 2018: CLAIRE’S CAMERA

motw logo 1-35Claire’s Camera is Cannes-centric. South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo set his quirky character-driven, genre-defying drama in the sun-drenched seaside resort town as the festival is taking place, but never visits the event’s star-studded glamour or industry hustle — both of which actually surrounded the film’s premiere at the festival in 2017. And, since the story is about friendship between two women, Claire’s Camera is femme-centric, too. Continue reading…

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AWFJ’s Women’s History Month Movies Watch List

Celebrate Women’s History Month by watching women-centric films that illuminate, educate and entertain. AWFJ’s curated list of films to watch during Women’s History Month ranges from mirth-filled comedies to truth-based stories of feminist activism, from gal pal road trip scenarios and inspiring biopics to exposes of the heinous evils of sexism and racism. The wide range of recommended films have one thing in common: they are all about women and they respectfully represent women’s perspectives on the social and political issues that we all face in daily life. Each film is a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come — and how much further we need to go. Women’s History Month has 31 days. We list 35 films, figuring that you might enjoy watching a feminist double bill on the weekend or your day off. Continue reading…

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AWFJ’s 2018 Oscar Predictions For Winners in Seven Categories

oscars goldOur impromptu poll is neither mandatory nor universal, and the AWFJ members who’ve sent in their 2018 Oscars predictions have very varied opinions about which nominees will prevail on this year’s golden day. They’ve also specified that these are their predictions, the nominees they think will win, but not necessarily those they hope will win. Their predictions in seven categories are listed on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER. But, the tally of their ballots indicates AWFJ’s predictions for the winners in the 2018 Oscars race. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 23, 2018: HALF MAGIC

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Heather Graham’s directorial debut, Half Magic, is completely femme-centric, but it won’t pass the Bechdel Test. Yes, the comedy focuses on three women who have viable careers and who talk to each other frequently — but almost all of their conversation is about men and sex. More specifically, about how to hook up with nicer men and have better sex. Continue reading…

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From The AWFJ Archive: MoMA’s Sally Potter Retrospective – Jennifer Merin comments

Let’s praise Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) curator Sally Berger for putting together a remarkable and well-deserved retrospective (July 7 to 24) of the films and video of Sally Potter, the brilliant British feminist moviemaker with a genuinely unique and fascinating vision.
Potter‘s films are never easy escapes, and she’s often had mixed reviews, but as director, writer, actress, dancer, choreographer and composer, Potter is a rare entity: the complete cinematic artist. She invites you to profound emotional insights and transports you to uncharted realms of imagination and intellect. Continue reading…

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2017 AWFJ EDA Awards: The Winners

The women of AWFJ have voted!

shape of water 3The Shape of Water is the big winner in this year’s 1th annual AWFJ EDA Awards, garnering awards for Best Film, Best Director for Guillermo del Toro and Bravest Performance for Sally Hawkins. AWFJ voters show love for Greta Gerwig with EDA’s for Best Female Director and Best Female Screenwriter for Lady Bird, with Laurie Metcalf winning the award for Best Supporting Actress in Lady Bird. EDAs went to a diverse array of talents in 19 additional categories, including Actress Most in Need of a New Agent and the coveted AWFJ Hall of Shame Award. For the full list, Continue reading…

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Announcing the 2017 AWFJ EDA Awards Nominees

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists is delighted to announce the nominees for the 2017 AWFJ EDA Awards in 25 categories ranging from the standards such as ‘Best Film,”Best Cinematographer,’ and ‘Best Actress’ to our own gender-focused and sometimes somewhat snarky slots, including ‘Actress Best Defying Age and Ageism’ and ‘Actress Most in Need of A New Agent.’ The annual EDA Awards, now in their eleventh season, reflect women’s perspectives on film, and recognize excellent work in cinema, in front of and behind the camera, with a particular focus on work done by and about women. For the list of nominees, Continue reading…

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Women Receive Two of Three Filmmaker Grants from the Independent Spirit Awards

Film Independent announced the winners of its five Spirit Awards filmmaker grants at its annual Spirit Awards Nominee Brunch held in West Hollywood on Janaury 6. John Cho (Star Trek, Columbus, Search) and Alia Shawkat (Search Party, Blaze, Duck Butter) co-hosted the event and handed out the honors. There’s quite a lot of money involved! Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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