SAG Awards THREE BILLBOARDS, PGA Taps SHAPE OF WATER — Michelle Hannett reports

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURIThe dark comedic drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was the big winner of the night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, taking home the award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor, at this year’s ceremony on January 21. Continue reading on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 26, 2018: MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER

motw logo 1-35Take a lonely British child, add an unexpected discovery and a previously unknown world of magic — including a special school run by powerful wizards — and what do you have? Nope, not Harry Potter. It’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s lovely anime take on prolific British author Mary Stewart’s 1971 children’s novel The Little Broomstick. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Blanchett Chairs Cannes Jury, Women Helmers Underrepresented, Wahlberg Donates to ‘Time’s Up’ — Brandy McDonnell reports

Last year, out of the 109 people who directed the top 100 movies, just eight were women, according to the latest stats from Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That’s 4.3 percent! Following the pay disparity controversy between earnings for Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, Wahlberg is donating all of his take from the ‘All the Money in the World’ reshoot to the Time’s Up equality initiative. And, brava! Cate Blanchett is set to head this year’s Cannes jury. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 19, 2018: THE SHAPE OF WATER

motw logo 1-35As beautiful to look at as it is entertaining to watch, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is a rich, textured romance/fairy tale about two misfits who find unexpected kinship in a secret government lab during the Cold War. It’s unlike any other film that hit the big screen in 2017, which is one of the reasons why AWFJ members voted to give it the EDA Award for Best Film of the year. Continue reading….

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THE SHAPE OF WATER — review by Cate Marquis

Magical, evocative and haunting, THE SHAPE OF WATER blends Cold War thriller, fairy tale and monster movie genres in director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film since PAN’S LABYRINTH, as well as one of the year’s best. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 12, 2018: THE POST

motw logo 1-35It’s hard to think of a movie with a more timely, important message than “The Post.” Steven Spielberg’s drama tells the story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the ’70s, but the film’s scenes of journalists passionately advocating for a free, independent press in a democracy could just as easily be set in today’s world of “fake news” conflict between the media and the government. 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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Producers Guild Nominations Include WONDER WOMAN, MOLLY’S GAME and I, TONYA — Michelle Hannett reports

pga logo darkEight women producers are among the Theatrical Motion Picture nominees for the 29th Annual Producers Guild Awards. The January 5 announcement also saw four women nominated in the Animated category. Starring strong female protagonists, nominations for WONDER WOMAN, MOLLY’S GAME and I, TONYA were undoubtedly the big surprises of the day. Continue reading on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 5, 2018 : MOLLY’S GAME

motw logo 1-35In “Molly’s Game,” writer/director Aaron Sorkin introduces us to Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a complicated woman who’s all the more fascinating because she’s real. Smart, resourceful, competitive, driven — Molly succeeds at whatever she puts her mind to. At first, that’s skiing; pushed hard by her demanding father, Larry (Kevin Costner), she becomes an Olympic-level champion who seems destined for gold…until a random accident ends her skiing career for good. continue reading….

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Eleanor Coppola on PARIS CAN WAIT and Doing Things Her Way –Interview by Jessica Zack

Eleanor Coppola admits she had some fun playing with the line between autobiography and fiction while writing the screenplay for “Paris Can Wait,” her new romantic road-trip movie which is also — remarkably, at age 81 — her narrative feature directorial debut.Continue reading…

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Filmmaker Petra Volpe on THE DIVINE ORDER and Women’s Rights — Jessica Zack interviews

Filmmaker Petra Volpe’s engaging film, The Divine Order, is a box office hit in Switzerland and is the Swiss foreign-film entry to the 2018 Academy Awards/ The film was inspired by the fact that as the U.S. was convulsing with cultural change during the late ’60s, not only had women’s lib not made it to the small Alpine nation, but Swiss women wouldn’t have the right to vote in national elections until 1971. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Women Warriors Fuel LAST JEDI, Jolie fuels BREADWINNER and WANDA lists at National Film Registry — Brandy McDonnell reports

Women warriors continue to feel the Force in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Producer Angelina Jolie promotes director Nora Twomey’s animated film, The Breadwinner, bringing to life the struggle of an Afghan girl to support her family. Wanda and Lives of Performers are added to National Film Registry. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 22: HO HO HOLIDAY VIEWING

motw logo 1-35This year’s MOTW roster has been dominated by films that present stories about every aspect of women’s struggles for equality and about other serious social issues that demand our attention. But late December is a good time for a bit of seasonal levity. And so we present for your enjoyment Team MOTW’s wonderfully varied list of recommended films for ho ho holiday viewing. The #MOTW roster features romance, comedy, thrills and lots of food. The films are upbeat, inspiring and spirited, although not all directly connected to traditional celebrations. Wonder what’s in store? Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Women Presenters At SAG Awards, Golden Globes Snub Women Directors but Award Oprah — Brandy McDonnell reports

Oprah Winfrey will receive the 2018 Cecil B. de Mille Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Jan. 7, but the announcement of that big honor for Oprah does little the ease the sting of HFPA’s huge snub: No female filmmakers were included on this year’s list of Golden Globe best director nominees. However, when the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards are simulcast live on TNT and TBS on January 21, the presentation, hosted by Kristen Bell, will feature only women presenters in 13 of the categories. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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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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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Gerwig’s Top Rating, Streep’s Gender Lament and MULAN Live — Brandy McDonnell reports

Greta Gerwig’s ‘Lady Bird’ becomes best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes. Disney chooses Liu Yifei to be its live-action ‘Mulan,’ to be directed by Niki Caro. Making the rounds for’The Post,’ Meryl Streep laments the lack of gender parity. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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SPOTLIGHT December, 2017: Angelina Jolie, Humanitarian Filmmaker

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angelina with handWith award season already in full thrust, SPOTLIGHT asks: Has there ever been an A-list actress who has – in the prime of her career – choosen to promote not herself, but two films that tell stories about third world countries?

The actress doesn’t even play a role in either film, but opts instead to produce The Breadwinner, an animated story about a young Afghan girl who dresses as a boy in order to feed her family in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, and to direct First They Killed My Father, an unflinching child’s view on the Khmer Rouge’s deadly rule in Cambodia.

No prizes for guessing December’s SPOTLIGHT is on Angelina Jolie, humanitarian, filmmaker, activist, mother, actress and so much more. And, both of her 2017 films have been selected as AWFJ Movie of the Week for their date of release.

As a BAFTA and AWFJ voter, this journalist enjoys award season as much as the next, although – if we’re totally honest – it’s something of a self-serving enterprise. Pick me! Pick me!

Which is what makes Jolie’s humility all the more admirable.

angelina head 1

When AWFJ met with Jolie at Toronto International Film Festival 2017, she tirelessly walked the red carpets accompanied by her six children, using her own celebrity to promote otherwise overlooked issues.

Dressed head to toe in white maxi skirt and white buttoned shirt, she looked like an angel as she reflected on her career, surprised as anyone to note that she’s been an actress for 35 years now, making her screen debut opposite her father Jon Voight in Lookin’ to Get Out, at age seven.

Jacqueline Bisset and Maximillian Schell were her godparents and a Hollywood career was preordained.

“I grew up around film in a town where it was all anybody talked about. My mother always told me how she wanted to be an actress and how her grandmother wanted to be an actress, and she was just so excited that I would be an actress that I never really thought I could be anything else,” noted Jolie, 42, whose beloved mother Marcheline Bertrand died ten years ago of ovarian cancer, at age 56.

“I got into acting partially because of my mom, because it made her so happy. It was something I was very much doing for her and it changed a little when she passed away.”

MOVING INTO THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR

It’s of note that she only really began her odyssey as a director in the same year her mother died, first with the 2007 documentary A Place in Time, followed by the 2011 Bosnian drama In The Land of Milk and Honey, gaining momentum with 2014’s WW II epic, Unbroken.

A year later she directed, wrote and starred opposite husband Brad Pitt in By The Sea, a drama about a husband and wife whose marriage is unraveling. While the poorly received film would become a self-fulfilling prophecy – the couple’s 12-year relationship unraveling over claims of his drinking and abuse – today their year-long separation is on hold.

“I haven’t done much [on screen] since my mother passed although now I do it for my kids,” said the mother of Maddox, 16, Pax, 13, Zahara, 12, Shiloh, 11, and nine-year-old twins Knox and Vivienne.

If she’s happier behind the camera instead of in front, then she’s not ungrateful for the opportunities her career has presented, “It is fun and silly, putting on costumes and acting like a crazy person. It’s a great job.”

TRAINING AND LIFE

Although she trained at the Strasbourg Institute she looks to life for inspiration. “Have a very full life, as full as possible, and listen and be aware of what’s around you. If you do that in life, you’re a better person, and if you do that as an actor, you communicate more honestly.”

Angelina Jolie with her son, Maddox

Angelina Jolie with her son, Maddox

She may have told the New York Times that she never expects “to be the one that everybody understands or likes,” but the peculiar disconnect between Jolie as a person and her perceived wild image, has long time been evident.

Even as she begun receiving praise for 1999’s Girl, Interrupted, her Oscar-winning role as a patient in a mental health institution, she laughs recalling how one critic wrote, “the only reason she would win an Oscar is that people aren’t sure if she’s actually crazy.”

GENTLE, KIND, UNSELFISH

Time has proven her gentle, kind and selfless. If you have to be a little crazy to take on and achieve as much as she has done, then call her crazy.

A cofounder of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, five years ago she was anointed as Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, undertaking more than 60 missions to date, often accompanied by her family.

Then there’s her advocacy for womens’ health and frank discussion of her own double mastectomy, all the time raising six children.

angelina smilesHaving interviewed Jolie at least five times over the past decade, I’ve always found her to be smart, gracious and kind. She doesn’t even have a personal publicist and the first words out of her mouth are usually, “Ask me whatever you want.” Manna to any journalist’s ears.

Oddly enough, early success did not bring happiness. “I actually got very depressed. I was young and I loved to be with people and this was going to change things. I was also very aware that I didn’t have much to say and I didn’t deserve a microphone. I was still trying to figure out who I was. I was certainly no different than anybody else and I didn’t want to be on the other side of the line, so it felt wrong.”

The same year as Girl, Interrupted, she starred in The Bone Collector with Denzel Washington and Pushing Tin, demonstrating the rage of her talents.

Ironically it was her flashy role in the blockbuster Lara Croft: Tomb Raider the following year that changed her life. While filming in Cambodia, she happened upon Loung Ung’s bestselling memoir, First They Killed My Father. At the same time, she fell in love with the Cambodian people and adopted her first child, Maddox, from a local orphanage.

Loung Ung was five when the Khmer Rouge overthrew Lon Nol’s military rule in 1975, turning the once-prosperous former French colonial outpost into an isolated death chamber.

Angelina Jolie with Loung Ung

Angelina Jolie with Loung Ung

Seeking out Ung shortly after reading her book, the two women became instant friends, adapting the book into a screenplay many years before Netflix agreed to finance the project in 2015. Cambodian director Rithy Panh signed on as a producer. When a damning Vanity Fair article suggested that Jolie had manipulated Cambodian children during auditions for the film, Panh supported Jolie, saying how she is beloved by the Cambodian people.

“For the longest time, I never thought I could make a movie,” Jolie said, “Not ever. And I never thought I could write. It wasn’t part of my plan.”

Describing her decision to become a filmmaker as an accident, she now says, “I wanted to learn more about the war in Yugoslavia because it was a war I did not understand. I wasn’t planning on making a movie at all but I was sick for a few days so I was away from my kids, so I thought I’d try to write a screenplay – just for me, for fun, nobody would ever see it. I decided to start with two people who loved each other deeply and then end with one of them killing the other.”

That of course, would be In The Land of Milk and Honey.

“If you saw me in the days before making that film; my lack of faith in myself, I was a mess.”

Today she is infinitely more at ease although First They Killed My Father was not without its difficulties. “It wasn’t easy, standing there with your friend while you recreate scenes of her father being taken and killed.”

With her son Maddox working long hours, serving as an executive producer, she says. “I wanted him to work hard and give himself back to his country.”

A champion of women’s rights for all, Jolie instantly signed on to co-produce The Breadwinner, writing in Harpers Bazaar about the inequality of a word where millions of women and girls – such as the 11-year-old girl portrayed in the film – have to go to work instead of school to support their families.

WHY WE CHOSE HER

awfjspotlightsmallsmallangelina eyesAs much as she is passionate about film, it’s her humanitarian work which brings the greatest satisfaction. “The people who I’ve met over the years are truly my heroes. These are people who have taught me how to be a better mother and a better person; how to appreciate life and what to value and what to live by. I’d rather remain in that world and learn from them and if I can do films that bring their stories to life, then I think that’s important.”

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Women Filmmakers Rise to the Top at Whistler Film Festival 2017 — Jennifer Merin reports

whistler logo 2017At a time when the call for gender parity is more prevalent than ever, the Whistler Film Festival 2017, taking placed from November 29 to December 3, will screen 14 feature films and 16 short films directed by women, which makes up 30% of this year’s film programming, the highest percentage for the festival to date. Continue reading…

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IDFA 2017: The Female Gaze is Gone — Jennifer Merin reports

idfa 2017 ;ogoInternational Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, otherwise known as IDFA, has accomplished during the decades since it was co-founded by Ally Derks, who is rightly revered in the documentary film realm. But Ally Derks has moved on, and IDFA is changing its outlook. This year, the festival dropped its The Female Gaze program and is, apparently, no longer focusing on ongoing issues of gender parity faced by the international community of women filmmakers. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 27: 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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Belize International Film Festival 2017 — Gill Pringle reports

belize ffNow in its 12th year, the Belize International Film Festival has enjoyed growing success with every year, thanks to its founder and festival director Suzette Zayden. A Belizean native, her original goal with BIFF was to put Belize on the film map but also to engender connectivity between her fellow countrymen through film. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Iran’s Female-Directed Oscar Pick, Plus Portman, Bigelow, Winslet and more — Brandy McDonnell Reports

Natalie Portman wins Israel’s Genesis Prize, Iran makes first Academy Award submission directed by a woman, Sundance Selects acquires Rachel Dretzin’s documentary ‘Far from the Tree,’ and Kathryn Bigelow, Kate Winslet and more are honored by SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 21: 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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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Varda and Tomlin Honored, Nowlin Plays PTSD Woman Vet, Sexual Harassment Help Line Set

Legendary French filmmaker Agnes Varda, now age 89, receives an honorary Oscar in Hollywood, while The Society of Voice Arts & Sciences has bestowed upon Lily Tomlin the Voice Arts Icon Award, presented at New York’s Lincoln Center. Actress Kate Nowlin weighs in on what it’s like to play a war veteran suffering from PTSD in Blood Stripe, which she also co-scripted. The tsunami of stories out sexual harassment continues to sweep through the entertainment industry and Women in Film Los Angeles is launching a sexual harassment hot line to help those who have suffered unwanted sexual attention for decades to overcome the trauma. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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