Liz Whittemore

Liz Whittemore is the author of AWFJ's I SCREAM YOU SCREAM blog. She is Co-Managing Editor and writes for www.ReelNewsDaily.com, hosts the podcast Girls On Film and is a contributing writer for Cinemit.com and The ArtsWireWeekly. Now New York-based, she was born and raised in northern Connecticut. She's a graduate of The American Musical & Dramatic Academy, and has performed at Disneyland and famed Hartford Children's Theater, and been a member of NYC's Boomerang Theater, Connecticut's Simsbury Summer Theater, Virginia's Offstage Theatre, where she also directed. Her film credits include Suburban Skies and Surrender. In 2008, she shot Jabberwocky, a documentary now in post-production. Liz is still a children's theatre director and choreographer. She's working on an updated adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and a series of children's books.

 

Articles by Liz Whittemore

 

Top Female Performances @ New York Film Festival 2017.

NYFF55-posterThis year’s festival was not lacking in gorgeously acted roles. Here is a list of 10 notable performances that I believe deserve attention. I will preface this list by saying I was unable to see Wonderstruck and Lady Bird. I am hearing nothing but praise for Julianne Moore‘s dual roles, newcomer Millicent Simmonds, and Saoirse Ronan. Of the 10 performances, only 7 films are represented. In no particular order, here are some ladies to be on the lookout for come awards season and beyond.

WA16_D12_0335.RAFKate Winslet for Wonderwheel. This portrayal feels like a bit of a departure somehow. The character feels beneath the grace of a woman we are so used to seeing in high-class roles. In this sense, it simply leads us to applaud Kate for fleshing out a flawed woman with wit and sadness. Wonderwheel is extremely stylistic but that should be surprising since it’s Woody Allen, and so as not to give anything away, let me just say that we would be lucky to see more of Winslet’s face on Broadway.

In a career spanning 50 years and almost as many features, Woody Allen has periodically refined, reinvented, and redefined the terms of his art, and that’s exactly what he does with his daring new film. We’re in Coney Island in the 1950s. A lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) tells us a story that just might be filtered through his vivid imagination: a middle-aged carousel operator (James Belushi) and his beleaguered wife (Kate Winslet), who eke out a living on the boardwalk, are visited by his estranged daughter (Juno Temple)—a situation from which layer upon layer of all-too-human complications develop. Allen and his cinematographer, the great Vittorio Storaro, working with a remarkable cast led by Winslet in a startlingly brave, powerhouse performance, have created a bracing and truly surprising movie experience. An Amazon Studios release.

spoor2-Agnieszka Mandat in Spoor. We are privileged and challenged with a mystery in this film. Mandat plays Janina with a feverish passion that will likely throw you for a loop. You cannot help but be swept up in her deeply emotional love for animals and sense of stubborn justice-seeking.

Janina Duszejko (Agnieszka Mandat) is a vigorous former engineer, part-time teacher, and animal activist, living in a near wilderness on the Polish-Czech border, where hunting is the favored year-round sport of the corrupt men who rule the region. When a series of hunters die mysteriously, Janina wonders if the animals are taking revenge, which doesn’t stop the police from coming after her. A brilliant, passionate director, Agnieszka Holland—who like Janina comes from a generation that learned to fight authoritarianism by any means necessary—forges a sprawling, wildly beautiful, emotionally enveloping film that earns its vision of utopia. It’s at once a phantasmagorical murder mystery, a tender, late-blooming love story, and a resistance and rescue thriller.

confo_cadre_defIsabelle Huppert for Mrs. Hyde. Huppert is a festival staple, sometimes appearing in more than one film year after year. While the film as a whole was a bit convoluted for my taste, this performance is a standout. We get to see a different side of Huppert as a timid and awkward  (and downright terrible) teacher. But it is the moments, of “Jekyll” and Mrs. Hyde, where the story shines the most, reminding us why she was nominated for last year’s performance in Elle.

Serge Bozon’s eccentric comedic thriller is loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with many a twist. Mrs. Géquil (Isabelle Huppert), a timid and rather peculiar physics professor, teaches in a suburban technical high school. Apart from her quiet married life with her gentle stay-at-home husband, she is mocked and despised on a daily basis by pretty much everyone around her—headmaster, colleagues, students. During a dark, stormy night, she is struck by lightning and wakes up a decidedly different person, a newly powerful Mrs. Hyde with mysterious energy and uncontrollable powers. Highlighted by Bozon’s brilliant mise en scène, Isabelle Huppert hypnotizes us again, securing her place as the ultimate queen of the screen. Special thanks to uniFrance.

let the sun shine inJuliette Binoche in Let The Sun Shine In. Another film that did not resonate with me as much as I would have liked it to does not for a moment take away from the fact that Binoche is a screen legend. As a woman desperately seeking love and affection, we see sensuality, disdain, and heartbroken moments in a seemingly endless line of failed relationships. Fragile and yet commanding, Binoche captures your sense of romance, lust, and hope effortlessly.

Juliette Binoche is both incandescent and emotionally raw in Claire Denis’s extraordinary new film as Isabelle, a middle-aged Parisian artist in search of definitive love. The film moves elliptically, as though set to some mysterious bio-rhythm, from one romantic/emotional attachment to another: from the boorish married lover (Xavier Beauvois); to the subtly histrionic actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), also married; to the dreamboat hairdresser (Paul Blain); to the gentle man (Alex Descas) not quite ready for commitment to . . . a mysterious fortune-teller. Appropriately enough, Let the Sunshine In (very loosely inspired by Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse) feels like it’s been lit from within; it was lit from without by Denis’s longtime cinematographer Agnès Godard. It is also very funny. A Sundance Selects release. Special thanks to uniFrance.

carey mudboundmary j mudboundMary J. Blige & Carey Mulligan for Mudbound. Two mothers from completely different backgrounds are stunning foils for one another. Each enduring the rule of a man due to place and time and yet able to put their foot down as a mother need do for her family. Blige’s performance sneaks up on you. Quietly strong and honestly given. If you did now know it was her going into the film, you may think it was some major award-winning actress that you didn’t recognize. Mulligan is tender and tough as an almost forgotten better half. Narration from each character adds to the depth of the novel turned Dee Rees adaptation. Mudbound gives Blige and Mulligan a chance to play against and with the other without fear.

Writer-director Dee Rees’s historical epic, based on the novel by Hillary Jordan, details the daily hardships and vicissitudes of farm life in Mississippi during the post–World War II era. Two families, one white (the landlords) and one black (the sharecroppers), work the same miserable piece of farmland. Out of need and empathy, the mothers of the two families bond as their younger male relatives go off to war and learn that there is a world beyond racial hatred and fear. The flawless ensemble cast includes Carey Mulligan, Mary J. Blige, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks. A Netflix release.

ismaels ghosts marion and charlotteMarion Cotillard & Charlotte Gainsbourg in Ismael’s Ghosts, Director’s Cut.  Two more festival staples, much like Huppert and Binoche, that have jumped from French cinema to Hollywood as relative household names. Cottliard gives us a dramatic and sexy backstory. She makes us yearn for her even when we know we shouldn’t. Gainsbourg is shyer but no less sexual. Her intellectual sorrow and practicality attach to the viewer, allowing her loss to become ours. While opposites in character, there is something magnetic about the scenes they share, carrying Ismael’s Ghosts beyond it haunting premise.

Phantoms swirl around Ismael (Mathieu Amalric), a filmmaker in the throes of writing a spy thriller based on the unlikely escapades of his brother, Ivan Dedalus (Louis Garrel). His only true stability, his relationship with Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), is upended, as is the life of his Jewish documentarian mentor and father-in-law (László Szabó), when Ismael’s wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard), who disappeared twenty years earlier, returns, and, like one of Hitchcock’s fragile, delusional femmes fatales, expects that her husband and father are still in thrall to her. A brilliant shape-shifter—part farce, part melodrama—Ismael’s Ghosts is finally about the process of creating a work of art and all the madness that requires. A Magnolia Pictures release. Special thanks to uniFrance.

the-florida-project bria and brooklynnBria Vinaite & Brooklynn Prince for The Florida Project. Two complete unknowns are the keys to this extraordinary work. With a documentary feel to the entire film, the audience is essentially a fly on the wall to a segment of the country that is far too often ignored. Vinaite is a young mother who will do anything to pay the weekly rent as long as it keeps her 6-year-old with a roof over her head. Con-artist, panhandling, and the like lead us to what one might assume to be a selfish woman, but this could not be further from the truth. Once the details of their stories are revealed you cannot help but fall in love with both of these ladies but for very different reasons. A crass mother begets a rambunctious and wildly endearing performance out of Prince. This little girl has enough spirit to out-act any grownup she shares the screen with. Her curiosity and innocence lend to one hell of a breakthrough performance. Vinaite and Prince’s chemistry makes Sean Baker‘s direction look like a breeze. You will, no doubt, be seeing much more of these two for years to come.

A six-year-old girl (the remarkable Brooklynn Prince) and her two best friends run wild on the grounds of a week-by-week motel complex on the edge of Orlando’s Disney World. Meanwhile, her mother (talented novice Bria Vinaite) desperately tries to cajole the motel manager (an ever-surprising Willem Dafoe) to turn a blind eye to the way she pays the rent. A film about but not for kids, Baker’s depiction of childhood on the margins has fierce energy, tenderness, and great beauty. After the ingenuity of his iPhone-shot 2015 breakout Tangerine, Baker reasserts his commitment to 35mm film with sun-blasted images that evoke a young girl’s vision of adventure and endurance beyond heartbreak. An A24 release. 

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SCHOOL LIFE — Review by Elizabeth Whittemore

School Life pulls at the heartstrings of this former substitute teacher and children’s theatre director with its effortless charm. Following a married couple who teach at an Irish boarding school, this doc will bring you back to the days where being away from home can be both all consuming and exciting. Continue reading

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DRIFTER — Review by Liz Whittemore

Drifter posterWe’ve seen the classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre played out time and again over the years. A family of cannibals who lures strangers into their home under the guise of helping a distressed member of their party. Add a little post-apocalyptic element and that’s essentially the plot of Chris von Hoffmann‘s new film Drifter. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM

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WISH UPON — Preview by Liz Whittemore

What sets a horror film apart from all the others? A great trailer that engages fans’ curiosity, for one thing. But add another element for young fans to play with while waiting for said anticipated film? There’s your winner, and it’s Wish Upon. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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DON’T KNOCK TWICE — Review by Liz Whittemore

dont knock twice posterThe man with a hook for a hand, Bloody Mary, Slenderman — why are we so hooked on urban legends? Is it to scare ourselves silly? Or, perhaps it’s to see terror rise in someone else. We should know better than to test fate at this point, but we don’t. In the new horror film, Don’t Knock Twice, a troubled young girl wrangles her estranged mother into fighting a battle they may not be able to win.,even though they’re fighting together against evil instead of fighting each other. Read the full review on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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Taking a bite out of 2017 with… Shark horror? — Previews by Liz Whittemore

sky shocksIn horror, oftentimes, you’ll see a reoccurring theme of some half naked nubile thing running up the stairs to certain doom. Aside from the human(esque) villain, you might get a phenomenal film featuring a monster of the animal variety (Cujo, The Fly, Arachnophobia). Once in a blue moon something spectacular like JAWS appears and the a franchise is born. 2017 and 2018 will bring us three news films also starring sharks. Three? That seems like a lot, but if it works, then who cares if a recycled idea is scary. Here is a quick overview of what we know so far about Cage Dive, Sky Sharks, and Meg. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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SiREN — Review by Liz Whittemore

siren-poster-202x300Some of the most successful films actually began as brilliant shorts. Alive in Joburg, for one example, became District 9. And, Within The Woods eventually evolved into The Evil Dead. This time around, a short segment within V/H/S is getting its own feature length film. We wonder whether SiREN will be able to lure in the same audience it did in its 2012 origin? Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM

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Top Female Performances @ New York Film Festival 2016 — Liz Whittemore reports

nyff-54-previewWoman were out in  full force at this year’s festival. From directors like Ava DuVernay, Kelly Reichardt, Alison Maclean, Maren Ade, and Mia Hansen-Løve in the Main Slate section alone, to the star studded Hollywood performers we’ve come to love and respect throughout the years. Tackling subjects such as grief, injustice, rape culture, loneliness, fear and self actualization, this year’s selections were a strong representation of the complexities of  the female gender.  Read on…

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CLOWN — Preview by Liz Whittemore

clownEli Roth, resposible for directing and producing such chilling titles as Hostel, Cabin Fever, and Knock Knock, has brought one of the most common fears to life. Check out the trailer and box art for his latest project CLOWN, getting it’s Blu-Ray and DVD release in August. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM

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Kathriyn Bostic and Miriam Cutler Talk About the Alliance of Women Film Composers — Liz Whittemore Interviews

AWFC_logo_B_on_W_400x85I had the wonderful opportunity to interview two board members of the Alliance of Women Film Composers (AWFC), a group I consider to be sister to AWFJ. AWFC’s mission statement is as follows:

Through advocacy, support and education, the Alliance for Women Film Composers aims to increase the visibility of women composers active in media scoring. The AFWC advocates for the inclusion of women composers within industry events; supports filmmakers, game developers and studios in their inclusion of women composers; and educates, mentors and inspires emerging women composers.
I spoke with Kathryn Bostic and Miriam Cutler about the challenges and advantages of this unique group of women in the industry. Read more…
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Etheria Film Night: Female Filmmakers take note! — Liz Whittemore reports

Etheria Film Night bannerEtheria Film Night is an annual showcase screening of a progressive slate of genre films directed by women for an audience including producers, managers, show runners, distributors, and genre fans.  Women want to make exciting, provocative, entertaining, fantastic, and terrifying films. Etheria puts the women directors who want to make genre films and TV in front of the people who want to hire them. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM…

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MARK OF THE WITCH — Review by Liz Whittemore

witchTastes great. But it’s less than filling. Jason Bognacki’s Mark of the Witch is a glorious feast for the eyes but, despite its clever release date of 6/6/16, it left me feeling rather empty. Find out why in my review, to be found in its entirely on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM…

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YOU’RE KILLING ME – Review by Liz Whittemore

you're killing me posterUnapologetically self-involved dialogue and killing go hand in hand with a brand new indie titled, “You’re Killing Me”. The name, you’ll come to discover, is a double entendre. We welcome the arrival of this gay horror-comedy in all it’s glory, introducing a new dimension to the genre. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM…

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Scary Ladies Part One: Five Female Writers/Directors Who Generate Fear – Liz Whittemore comments

we need to talk about kevinPresenting scary ladies. There’s an all too common perception that women in horror films are merely victims. But that particular take on the horror genre is way out of focus. Some of the horror game’s most unique and effective players are women. The genre features outstanding scream-wrapped films that are clearly products of minds of the female persuasion, reflect female perspectives and are centered on dynamic female characters. In the first of a new series on women in horror, here are 5 female directors and writers that put our preconceived notions on the back burner. These women in horror really kill it. Read more in I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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KRAMPUS – Preview by Liz Whittemore

Krampus_posterThe new horror-comedy Krampus has just been released in theaters to mixed reviews. My best guess is that if  you’re a fan of the 1974 Christmas horror cult classic Black Christmas, Krampus will be right up your alley. The plot revolves a horned, anthropomorphic figure who punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved. Read more about the legendary character from Alpine folklore and Check out the film’s trailer on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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Top Female Performances @ New York Film Festival 2015 – Liz Whittemore comments

nyff 53 logo realWith the abundance of beautiful films that screened at this year’s festival, I wanted to call to attention to a few key women who stood out from the crowd. Some were obvious to spot and already buzz-worthy. Others flew under the radar but deserve just as much applause. Altogether they add up to a significant showing for strong and complex women characters on the big screen. Welcome to the top performances by women of the New York Film Festival 2015. Read more on THE FEMALE GAZE…

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THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW Movie is 40 years old! – Liz Whittemore comments

The_Rocky_Horror_Picture_Show poster2015 is the 40th Anniversary of the UK theatrical release of the cult classic The Rocky Horror Show movie. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was sort of a flop by today’s standards, but once midnight screenings began in NYC, there was no stopping this raucous and infectious work of madness. Originally a stage play, it hopped from stage to screen with Richard O’Brien’s script. It was meant to be a tribute science fiction and B horror movies of the late 1930s through early 1970s. The costumes are now iconic and shadow casts around the county work painstakingly to imitate them. It’s been said that the film’s costumes were a big influence on the punk music scene’s style. Read more on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION – Preview by Liz Whittemore

paranormal activity houseSelling Scary: What helps a movie get attention online these days? A prank that’s cleverly set into motion and coordinated by Paramount Pictures seems to be doing the trick for the latest in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Check out the campaign for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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New York Film Festival 53: Horror Genre Shorts – Liz Whittemore comments

nyff 53 logo realIn it’s 53rd year, The New York Film Festival has chosen to add an entire Shorts Program in the “Horror” genre. Alongside “Animation,” “International,” and the “New York” categories, this year’s horror shorts were all completely distinctive and very ripe for the viewing. We hope this program will sticks around from here on out. Read more>>

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GOODNIGHT MOMMY – Review by Liz Whittemore

goodnightmommy_poster-199x300Goodnight Mommy will scare the bejesus out of you and make you squirm like you’ve never squirmed before. Two boys suspect that their mom, recently home from the hospital with her head wrapped entirely in bandages, isn’t the mom they knew before! The performances are subtle and brilliant. Writer-Director team Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala bring us one hell of a tale that’s sure to make the pair of clearly talented and slightly demented creatives household names in horror genre circles and beyond. Read more on the I SCREAM YOU SCREAM blog.

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ASH VS EVIL DEAD – Preview by Liz Whittemore

ash-vs-evil-dead-199x300How do you sell scary? Bringing an 80′s cult classic back to life (pun intended) is certainly one way to do it. The highly anticipated Ash Vs Evil Dead art is here! Read on, and don’t forget to watch the trailer.

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BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS – Preview by Liz Whittemore

bloodsuckingComedy and horror oftentimes go hand in hand. This new release brings the giggles and the gore. Whedonverse favorite Fran Kranz stars as Evan Sanders, a low-level, dutiful employee stuck in a boring job at a soul-killing corporation. One month and counting until BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS hits theaters and VOD. Read more>>

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THESE FINAL HOURS – Review by Liz Whittemore

these final hours posterWe’ve come to expect over the top action sequences and huge action stars when approaching the subject of the end of days. In this edition of Sunday Bloody Sunday, we’re looking at apocalyptic poignance in the new Netflix release These Final Hours. Taking a step back from the usual fare, this film gets to the heart of coming face to face with ones demise. Read more>>

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GRAND PIANO – Review by Liz Whittemore

grandpianoposterNot every film has to be gory to put your nerves on edge. Grand Piano is a beautiful nod to the masters of suspense. Elijah Wood and John Cusack stretch their acting chops in two very different ways in this elegant thriller. Never have I watched the opening credits to a film and felt so uneasy, Grand Piano is now available on Netflix. Read more>>

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NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN – Review by Liz Whittemore

nothingbadcanhappen-202x300Katrin Gebbe’s work is exceptional. What trust and respect she must have had with her cast and crew to be able to pull off a piece that is so incredibly dark and frightening. It is hard to believe that this is her feature debut. This film draws you in from the get go. It has an ominous feeling that makes you happy that you are just watching a movie. You have to try to forget that this actually happened. Read on…

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