Oscar-bound Annette Bening Shakes up the Screen — Profile by Thelma Adams (Exclusive)

anette beningIn 20th Century Women, Annette Bening redefines what it is to be an actress over forty – okay 58 – while gunning for an Oscar as Santa Barbara single mum Dorothea. Smart, sexy, searching: just three adjectives that describe the Kansas native. Fold in funny and touching, too. But what makes this mother-of-four married to former matinee idol Warren Beatty so disruptive, so eruptive, is that as a craftswoman and artist, she never stands still. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: ‘La La Land’ keeps dancing, ‘Moonlight’ still shining, ‘Kubo’ makes history — Brandy McDonnell reports

LLL d 41-42_6689.NEFLast weekend’s Golden Globes established La La Land as a clear front-runner — closely followed by Moonlight — in upcoming races for the prestigious awards doled out by the DGA, PGA, BAFTA and, ultimately, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Now, nominations have been announced by all but the Academy. To see how they compare, read Brandy McDonnell’s awards season update on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Greta Gerwig and Mike Mills on 20TH CENTURY WOMEN — Interview by Tomris Laffly

20th-century-women-posterGreta Gerwig says Mike Mills is at his core a listener and he started 20th Century Women from a place of being a listener. “He was raised by women basically. But he didn’t make any assumptions and he interviewed them all. It’s why the film feels like it’s about real women, and not about imagined projections of women by a man, which is what it usually feels like.” Asked whether he would call himself a true feminist, Mike Mills opines that it’s not really his place to say. “Well, I’m a male ally to women. A feminist? That’s something for women to decide.” Read more>>

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Golden Globes So White? – Brandy McDonnell comments

The Golden Globes might actually be a revealing indicator of how Hollywood’s entire awards structure has responded to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy of the past few years. Again, the Globes have twice as many categories as the Oscars, honoring the best lead and supporting players in both drama and musical/comedy films. But this year’s fields are refreshingly diverse with nominees like Loving‘s Ruth Negga, Fences‘ Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Hidden Figures‘ Octavia Spencer, Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris and Lion‘s Dev Patel competing. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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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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SPOTLIGHT January 2017: Ava DuVernay, Film Director and Crusader — by Marilyn Ferdinand

awfjspotlightsmallsmallava-duvernay-head-shotIt’s hard to think of a more galvanizing, charismatic woman in film than Ava DuVernay. The 44-year-old producer, director, writer, distributor and crusader for social justice broke into the larger cultural zeitgeist in 2015, the year her acclaimed film Selma was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and four Golden Globes, and won the AWFJ EDA Award for Best Woman Director. She is the winner of three AWFJ EDA Awards in 2016, including those for Best Documentary and Best Female Director for 13th and Outstanding Achievement by a Woman in Film. Read on…

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AWFJ WONDER WOMEN: 55 Best Fictional Female Characters

To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our orginzation’s inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact, social influence and long legs since the earliest days of cinema.

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Our members celebrate every imaginable liberated woman among their choices of our top 55 women characters, including a factory worker who demands her rights from her employer, a widow who founds her own successful company in the very unequal 1940s, a woman with no legal property rights who schemes to hold onto her family home, and two friends who take “Give me liberty or give me death” quite literally.

The full list was revealed in weekly posts during August, 2016, as a countdown from number 55 to number one. The order of preference was determined by AWFJ members who voted for the films. Each film is annotated by one of the AWFJ members who voted for it. The results are interesting, insightful and entertaining:

However, as Wonder Woman Project leader Marilyn Ferdinand points out in her compelling commentary, when the full list is considered in chronological order, it not only serves as a timely reminder that dynamic female characters have populated the silver screen from cinema’s inception to the present, but also shows the evolution of representative women’s images, gives a glimpse of whom we’ve needed to see during various eras and reflects historical shortcomings in stories about women of color and elderly women, among others, and the need for gender parity and greater diversity on screen.

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AWFJ’S WONDER WOMEN IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER:

Lola-Lola (The Blue Angel, 1930)

Jo March (Little Women, 1933, 1949, 1994)

Nora Charles (The Thin Man series, 1934-1947)

Mammy (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind, 1939)

Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

Nina Ivanovna Yakushova (Ninotchka, 1939)

Hildegard Johnson (His Girl Friday, 1940)

Eve (The Lady Eve, 1941)

Ilsa Lund (Casablanca, 1942)

Mildred Pierce (Mildred Pierce, 1945)

Margo Channing (All About Eve, 1950)

Norma Desmond (Sunset Blvd, 1950)

Emma “Billie” Dawn (Born Yesterday, 1950)

Rose Sayer (The African Queen, 1951)

Princess Ann (Roman Holiday, 1953)

Sally Bowles (I Am a Camera/Cabaret, 1955, 1972)

Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962)

Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins, 1964)

Martha (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966)

Jean Brodie (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, 1969)

Maude Chardin (Harold and Maude, 1971)

Rebecca Morgan (Sounder, 1972)

Alice Hyatt (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, 1974)

Mabel Longhetti (A Woman Under the Influence, 1974)

Ripley (Alien series, 1976-1997)

Leia Organa (Star Wars series, 1977-2015)

Annie Hall (Annie Hall, 1977)

Norma Rae Webster (Norma Rae, 1979)

Doralee (9 to 5, 1980)

Aurora Greenway (Terms of Endearment, 1983)

Sarah Connor (Terminator 1 & 2, 1984, 1991)

Lucy Honeychurch (A Room with a View, 1985)

Loretta Castorini (Moonstruck, 1987)

Jane Craig (Broadcast News, 1987)

Annie Savoy (Bull Durham, 1988)

Tess McGill (Working Girl, 1988)

Louise Sawyer (Thelma & Louise, 1991)

Thelma Dickinson (Thelma & Louise, 1991)

Clarice Starling (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)

Ada McGrath (The Piano, 1993)

Marge Gunderson (Fargo, 1996)

Jackie Brown (Jackie Brown, 1997)

Laine Hanson (The Contender, 2000)

Yu Shu Lien (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000)

Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series, 2001-2011)

Paikea (Whale Rider, 2002)

The Bride (Kill Bill 1 & 2, 2003-2004)

Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada, 2006)

Ree (Winter’s Bone, 2010)

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games series, 2012-2015)

Olivia (Boyhood, 2014)

Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015)

Ma (Room, 2015)

Elle (Grandma, 2015)

For AWFJ notes on individual films, check the countdown links presented above or type the film title in the search box.

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THREE TREMBLING CITIES – Review by Martha P. Nochimson

three-trembking-cities​Three Trembling Cities, written and directed by Arthur Vincie, is an innovative web series about immigrants in New York. Wait, don’t run for the exit. It’s not an earnest and/or sentimental diatribe about America as a country of immigrants; or a timely warning against the repulsive policies of Donald Trump, although this is a good time for America to consider its immigrant heritage. ​But the word “immigrant” has become heavy, fraught with anxiety, anger, and melancholy, and Three Trembling Cities is anything but that. Read the full review on EYE ON MEDIA.

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Three powerful movies this year reflect Virginia’s troubled racial history — Stephanie Merry comments

Loving shows Virginia at its most romantic and picturesque. Toward the beginning of the drama, a man takes his pregnant wife-to-be to an empty field and tells her in a slow drawl, “I’m going to build you a house right here.” The couple stand on a patchy, tree-lined stretch of grass, the rhythmic buzzing of cicadas pulsing around them. Low-hanging clouds pass languidly overhead, and the grass flutters in the breeze; humidity practically radiates off the screen. Read more>>

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How LA LA LAND almost didn’t get made — Stephanie Merry comments

For a creative industry, Hollywood doesn’t exactly put creativity on a pedestal. Movies that aren’t reminiscent of other movies — or plays or books or comics — don’t usually get made, which is why for every imaginative film from a dreamer like Wes Anderson, Charlie Kaufman or Spike Jonze, there are dozens of reboots, sequels, remakes and origin stories. So of course “La La Land” almost didn’t make it to the big screen. The musical, which expands to Washington and other cities Friday, is one of the most celebrated movies of the year and a shoo-in for a best-picture nomination come Oscar time, but it had one huge strike against it: originality. Read more>>

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Whistler Film Festival 2016: Feminism Soars – Jennifer Merin reports

whistler-2016The 16th annual Whistler Film Festival has drawn to a close after five days packed with film screenings, a full house of filmmaker labs and pitch sessions, parties and power skiing. Parity for women is a cause that’s fully embraced by festival director Shauna Hardy Mishaw, who has established partnerships with female focused organizations to train, mentor and promote women directors and producers at the festival. Additionally, femme-helmed films scored big in award wins. Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT DECEMBER 2016: Maren Ade, Director and Producer, TONI ERDMANN — by Julide Tanriverdi

awfjspotlightsmallsmallmaren-ade2The German filmmaker Maren Ade is making waves with her third feature Toni Erdmann which caused a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival. Now it opens in theaters and this is a movie no one should miss. Read on…

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Women on Top Summit @ Whistler Film Festival: Keynote Address by Valerie Creighton, Canadian Media Fund

valerie-creightonAt Whistler Film Festival’s spirited Women on Top Summit (held December 3, atop Whistler Mountain), Canada Media Fund’s president and CEO Valerie Creighton affirmed and underscored Canada’s commitment to reach parity for women working in all aspects of the country’s moving image industries. Creighton’s speech provides comprehensive coverage of status and strategies re Canada reaching the goal of gender parity. The entire address is published on THE FEMALE GAZE

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AWFJ EDA Awards @ IDFA 2016 Filmmaker Interview: Mette Carla Albrechtsen and Lea Glob on VENUS

mettecarla-and-lea-cropped-300x216Danish filmmakers Mette Carla Albrechtsen and Lea Glob explore the subject of young women’s sexuality by setting up an open ‘casting call’ at which they interview the film’s subjects about their sexual experiences and attitudes towards sexuality and their bodies as they develop from adolescence to womanhood. Through this compilation of interviews, the filmmakers contemplate their own attitudes towards sex, and offer the opportunity for women who see the film to do as, as well. Read what they have to say about Venus and filmmaking on THE FEMALE GAZE

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Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2016 — Jennifer Merin reports

ccdaAs proof positive of the trending interest in nonfiction film, the first-ever Critics Choice Documentary Awards (CCDA) were presented on November 3, 2016, at a gala event attended by leading documentary filmmakers, distributors and film critics. Presented by the BFCA and BTJA, the critics organizations behind the annual Critics Choice Movie Awards (to be presented on December 11), the documentary awards covered nonfiction films with theatrical releases and those shown on television or via online streaming. The CCDAs are the first awards given in recognition of the various genres of documentary film by critics. Read more…

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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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SPOTLIGHT October 2016: Bonni Cohen, Acclaimed Director and Producer

Bonni CohenThe filmmaking team of Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk explore the results of social media bullying with the new thought-provoking, conversation-starting documentary, Audrie & Daisy.

The documentary, which is currently streaming on Netflix, focuses primarily on two teenage sexual assault victims who had their humiliation made public via Facebook and other online social media outlets. The documentary should be considered a must-see for high school students, and the filmmakers should be applauded for their approach to this disturbing topic. Read on.

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Women Defy Odds and Demand Room at TIFF Table — Thelma Adams comments

Fuck buzz. That’s how I feel addressing Toronto’s female-driven movies, whether directed by women or not. Because buzz reflects the 80 percent male gender bias, writing about film fails to connect meaningfully with the real audience that is—duh, ask your mothers—50 percent female. For me, the greatest metaphor for the plight of women film artists is Aisling Walsh’s Maudie, an intense wee biopic about the outsider artist Maud Lewis with an Oscar-ripe performance from the great empath Sally Hawkins. (“If it weren’t for Hawkins,” condescends Variety’s Peter Debruge, “there would be little to distinguish Maudie from the sort of 16mm filmstrip made for schoolchildren back in the day.” Wrong!) Read more>>

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SPOTLIGHT September 2016: Vera Farmiga, Actress and Filmmaker

Vera FarmigaVera Farmiga earned an Oscar nomination as well as AWFJ, BAFTA, Broadcast Film Critics, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globe nominations for her outstanding work in 2009’s Up in the Air. But that was just the tip of the awards iceberg as Farmiga’s been recognized for her impressive work in diverse roles by film critics and awards organizations worldwide throughout her 20+ year career. Read on>>.

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Who’s #1? AWFJ Wonder Women Countdown Of Best Fictional Female Characters

To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact, social influence and long legs since the earliest days of cinema.
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Our members celebrate every imaginable liberated woman among their choices of our top 11 women characters, including a factory worker who demands her rights from her employer, a widow who founds her own successful company in the very unequal 1940s, a woman with no legal property rights who schemes to hold onto her family home, and two friends who take “Give me liberty or give me death” quite literally. And, of course, we reveal our No. 1 Wonder Woman, a favorite of everyone who meets her. Here is our final group of Wonder Women, numbers 11 through 1:

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AWFJ Wonder Women Countdown – Characters 22 through 12

To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact and social influence since the earliest days of cinema.
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This week, our Wonder Women include some high-powered career women who have trouble with their work-life balance, a couple of New Yorkers with unique personal styles and some young women who find themselves facing dangerous enemies with determination in the face of their fears. Please meet our next group of Wonder Women, numbers 22 through 12:

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AWFJ Wonder Women Countdown – Characters 33 through 23

To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact and social influence since the earliest days of cinema.
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This week, our Wonder Women include a pair of princesses who find adventure outside of their courtly isolation, ordinary women who face some difficult times with bravery and persistence, women who are dedicated to their various missions in life while finding—and sometimes losing—love, and girls who nurture their inborn talents to secure their place in the world. Please meet our next group of Wonder Women, numbers 33 through 23:

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AWFJ Wonder Women Countdown – Characters 43 through 34

To celebrate AWFJ’s tenth anniversary and mark the movie industry’s feminist developments since our inception, we present our Wonder Women Project, a list of cinema’s top 55 female fiction characters, each one a reminder to industry insiders and movie lovers that iconic females in film have had entertainment impact and social influence since the earliest days of cinema.

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This week, our Wonder Women include two girls who learn some hard lessons about inequality and come out the better for it. Our Wonder Women also show their adaptability to change, their willingness to be generous, and importantly, their tenacious adherence to their own singular identities and personal integrity. Please meet our next group of Wonder Women, numbers 43 through 34:

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About AWFJ’s Wonder Women Project — Marilyn Ferdinand comments

The last year or so has given women some important reasons to celebrate. The United States finally has its first female candidate for President, the 2014 Sony hack that revealed the deliberate underpayment and disrespect of actresses has pushed many high-profile women to speak up and take action, and African-American director Ava DuVernay is one of the “Sheroes” in a new line of dolls from Mattel. Read on…

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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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