MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 24 – 31, 2017: THEIR FINEST

motw logo 1-35Mix a few dashes of “Argo,” a smidge of “Monuments Men” (admittedly, there’s not all that much worth taking), and a hearty dollop of “Hope and Glory,” and you’ll start to get an idea of what to expect from “Their Finest.” This World War II-set romantic dramedy follows a scrappy group of British filmmakers/propagandists who find themselves scrambling to make a morale-boosting movie based on an inspiring true story … sort of. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ sets box office records for female-fueled films – Brandy McDonnell reports

beauty and the beast posterDisney’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” proved magical, AWFJ’s #MOTW for March 17, has set several box-office records during its first weekend in theaters. The lavish movie-musical version of the fairytale story conjured up an incredible $170 million in North America and $350 million globally. It is the biggest debut of all time for a female-fueled film, proving yet again that female protagonists are strong both on screen and at the box office. The numbers underscore the buying power of women and girls. On Friday, more than 70 percent of ticket buyers were females, with the overall weekend percentage at 60 percent, per Disney’s numbers as cited by The Hollywood Reporter. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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TABLE 19 — Review by Susan Granger

Angst-riddled weddings have always been ripe for satire but this rom-com doesn’t satisfy even the most meager expectations. Eloise McGarry (Anna Kendrick) was supposed to be Maid-of-Honor at her oldest friend’s Midwestern wedding but then the bride’s brother/Best Man, Teddy (Wyatt Russell), breaks up with her – via a text message. So clumsy, insecure Eloise finds herself relegated to a remote section of the reception, seated with the losers that the bridal couple felt obligated to invite but hoped wouldn’t come. Read on…

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National Film Board of Canada aims for gender parity by 2020 — Jennifer Merin reports

nfblogoGovernment Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson Claude Joli-Coeur announced that the NFB is aiming to achieve gender parity (50 percent) in key creative positions for animated, documentary and interactive works in production as of 2020. The initiative targets editing, cinematography, screenwriting and music composition and includes key creative positions related to animation and immersive/interactive storytelling, where women are decidedly in the minority—positions such as art director, art designer and creative technologist. Read more on THE FEMALE GAZE

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THE BELKO EXPERIMENT — Review by Susan Granger

What does it take to survive at work? That’s the question posed by this psychologically provocative horror/thriller, set in a factory in Bogota, Colombia, where 80 of Belko Industries’ American employees have been relocated. Read on…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 17-24, 2017: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

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It may be a “tale as old as time,” but there’s plenty that’s new and fresh in Disney’s live-action take on one of folklore’s most enduring opposites-attract stories. First and foremost is Emma Watson as Belle, the independent, book-loving French girl who dreams of “adventure in the great wide somewhere” and ends up the captive of the surly, bitter, cursed Beast (Dan Stevens) after trading her own freedom for her father’s (Kevin Kline). Watson’s Belle is smart, confident, courageous, and feisty — she adds a welcome dash of our beloved Hermione to a character who was already considered one of Disney’s more admirable, self-sufficient princesses. Read on…

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Review by Martha K Baker

beauty and the beast 2 smallThe Disney live-action adaptation of the Disney animation depends on computer-generated imagery. Most viewers do not know Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version or Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s original story, but they surely know Disney’s animated version or the recent stage play. For fans of sparkles and reveals, the other versions may not matter. Fans of Alan Menken’s music may not care about the source material either. In being its own version, this one tries very hard by adding a bit of new music and by casting stars recognizable by voice or bearing. Read on…

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Review by Susan Granger

Bill Condon’s hybrid live action/digital remake of the “tale as old as time” has sumptuous special effects and enhanced character backstories. Set in rural France in 1740, it introduces brainy Belle (Emma Watson) whose academic father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), has been imprisoned in the Beast’s labyrinthine castle. Because he was once a spoiled young Prince, spurning pleas for assistance from an old lady/witch, the ghastly, horned Beast (Dan Stevens) has been cursed until he can find true love. Read on…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: King Kong’s leading lady gets a much-needed upgrade — Brandy McDonnell reports

skull island brie larsonKong: Skull Island emerged as box office king, debuting at No. 1 with a $61 million take. The latest cinematic outing for the “eighth wonder of the world” topped international charts, too, earning $81.6 million from 66 territories. Since this version of Kong is here to stay for a while, it’s a good thing the director and screenwriters Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), Max Borenstein (Godzilla) and Derek Connolly (Jurassic World) gave the female lead (Brie Larson) an overhaul nearly as dramatic as the supersizing of the gigantic gorilla. She’s a seasoned and fearless “anti-war photographer” who doesn’t tote a gun, but gets her team out of harrowing encounters with the Skull Island’s myriad monsters. She’s first to empathize with Kong and realize he’s not the mindless killing machine soldiers and scientists believe him to be. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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Kristen Stewart on Personal Transformation and PERSONAL SHOPPER — Loren King interviews

kristen stewartThe megastar of the Twilight franchise when she was barely out of her teens is now a respected indie actress with a prodigious output. Last year alone, she won praise for roles in Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, and Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and directed a short film, Come Swim. Oh, and she hosted Saturday Night Live, delivering an opening monologue that affirmed her coming out, while also skewering her own tabloid fame. Read more>>

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BEFORE I FALL — Review by Susan Granger

Lifting the supernatural premise of Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day,” this angst-riddled YA melodrama follows 17 year-old Samantha “Sam” Kingston (Zoey Deutch) who must re-live the same crucial Friday over and over again. It happens to be Cupid’s Day in the Pacific Northwest, as Cascadia High School celebrates Valentine’s Day with “val-o-grams” rose deliveries that gauge every student’s popularity. Read on…

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LOGAN — Review by Susan Granger

As the “X-Men” saga continues, Logan (Hugh Jackman) – a.k.a. Wolverine – is caring for cranky, critically ill Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), along with the albino Caliban (Stephen Merchant), in a hideout along the Mexican border. It’s 2029, when mutants are almost extinct. Weary Logan earns his living as a chauffeur, driving his own limousine, and drinking far too much. But he’s still the feral mutant with massive claws and a trigger-sharp temper. Read on…

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A UNITED KINGDOM — Review by Susan Granger

In London in 1947, the future King of Botswana, Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), who was studying law at Oxford, met a beautiful Englishwoman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), at a Mission Society dance and, soon after, they impulsively married. That’s just the beginning of this intriguing true story. Original opposition to their union came not only from Ruth’s racist father (Nicholas Lyndhurst) but also from the British government. Britain’s South Africa regime had recently introduced the policy of apartheid, so a biracial couple ruling a neighboring country seemed out of the question. Read on…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 10 – 17, 2017: THIS BEAUTIFUL FANTASTIC

motw logo 1-35Nobody does twee quite like the English, especially when it comes to stories about innocent romance, cantankerous old men who turn out to have hearts of gold, and neglected gardens begging to be restored to blooming beauty. This Beautiful Fantastic covers all of that ground and then some as it introduces viewers to Bella Brown (Jessica Brown Findlay, aka Downton Abbey’s beloved Lady Sybil), a librarian/aspiring children’s author who suffers from a variety of afflictions — a bit of OCD here, a little nature phobia there — that are all portrayed, in typical cinematic fashion, as charming quirks rather than potentially debilitating conditions.
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SPOTLIGHT March 2017: Amy Hobby, Feminist Film Producer and Activist

awfjspotlightsmallsmallLast year, during one of Tribeca Film Festival’s Tribeca Talks, Jodie Foster famously commented that women who’ve maneuvered their way into the upper echelons of the Hollywood hierarchy have not been particularly helpful to women working behind the lens.

amy hobby head 1But Tribeca Film Institute’s recently anointed Executive Director Amy Hobby disagrees. While acknowledging some validity in Foster’s statement and noting that statistics continue to show dismal gender disparity in the movie industry, Hobby claims that the scene is changing.

Take note: Amy Hobby is in the know, and she’s in a position where she can actually make it so. Read on…

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Oscars 2017: A Compendium of AWFJ Members’ Views — Jennifer Merin reports

oscar trophyOur goal is to present a compendium of AWFJ members’ perspectives on Oscars 2017. Not surprisingly, the views vary widely from utter enthusiasm to complete dismay, with mix of meh in between. Quite a few of our members opted out of the project, claiming awards burn out, indicating frustrations with the Academy’s new press procedures and/or stating that this year’s entire awards campaign and media buildup was either too political or not political enough. Read what Jeanne Wolf, Susan Wloszczyna, Moira Sullivan, Diana Saenger, Sheila Roberts, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell, Michelle McCue, Karen Martin, Kimberly Lindbergs, Leba Hertz, Candice Frederick, Marilyn Ferdinand, Chaz Ebert, Katherine Brodsky, Liz Braun, Betsy Bozdech and Erica Abeel have to say about Oscar 2017 on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER…

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Oscars 2017: Opportunity for More Creativity on Stage — Katherine Brodsky comments (Exclusive)

oscar logoThis year had several worthy nominees and they were well-recognized. Although as a whimsical musical fan, I was rooting for “La La Land” as Best Picture, having finally caught up on “Moonlight” a few nights prior, I recognized what a great film it was as well. But here’s a sad fact: This year’s Oscar ceremony will be remembered most for the hiccup at the end rather than anything in between. Every year, I tune in to the Oscars telecast hoping for a great show, thinking that this year will be the one. Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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Oscars 2017: Poise Under Pressure — Sheila Roberts comments (Exclusive)

oscar logoEtched indelibly in my mind about the Oscars this year is how graciously the presenters and the filmmakers from “La La Land” and “Moonlight” handled the confusion that ensued on stage after the wrong Best Picture was announced. Noteworthy was the leadership of “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz who took charge and stepped in to clarify what had gone wrong, even when it meant acknowledging his own loss. It was done with a lot of class, dignity, and poise under pressure. Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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Oscars 2017: Victories for ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land’ and Viola Davis — Brandy McDonnell reports (Exclusive)

oscar logoIn a twist ending that only Hollywood could dream up, “Moonlight” won best picture Sunday night after a mixed-up finish at the 89th Academy Awards. Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Emmy, a Tony and an Oscar for acting. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE SALESMAN — Review by Susan Granger

Iran’s Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film is another marital drama from Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi (“The Separation”). When Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti) Etesamis are forced to evacuate their crumbling Tehran apartment, they move into a more dilapidated abode, one that was previously occupied by a single woman with a young child. The clutter she left behind when she was evicted gives subtle clues as to who she is and the promiscuous life she led. She’s described as “a woman with lots of acquaintances…who lived a wild life.” Read on…

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KEDI — Review by Martha K. Baker

If all you know of cats is what you see on Facebook, you will be amazed by “Kedi.” If what you know about cats comes from your resident feline, you will be soothed and assured by “Kedi.” This documentary explores the world of cats in Istanbul, where they reign and roam. ‘Kedi’ offers feline philosophy in Istanbul Read on…

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A CURE FOR WELLNESS — Review by Susan Granger

When a young, ambitious Wall Street investment banker is dispatched to Switzerland to retrieve his company’s CEO from a mysterious, idyllic spa, encased in an Alpine castle, he discovers that the concept of “wellness” is open to macabre interpretation. Upon his arrival, Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) observes the elderly, outwardly contented residents wandering around in white robes, playing croquet, yet no staff member seems willing to tell him where his boss, Harold Pembroke (Harry Groener), is. As the plot twists and turns, Lockhart is in an automobile accident. Awakening with a broken leg, he discovers he’s now a patient, cared for by suavely sinister Dr. Heinrich Volmer (Jason Isaacs), who explains that the spa’s miraculous rejuvenation treatment comes from the water. Read on…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 3 – 10: THE LAST WORD

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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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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: 2017 Oscars set records but women are still underrepresented — Brandy McDonnell reports

oscar logoThis year’s Oscar nods are good news and bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way, especially since I’m sure it will come to no surprise to industry watchers or regular readers of this blog. Despite a slew of attention-getting films such as “Jackie,” “Arrival” and “Hidden Figures.” all featuring featuring strong, complex women as leading characters, the number of female Oscar nominees for behind-the-scenes roles dropped among this year’s Academy Award nominations. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: ‘Arrival’ screenwriter Eric Heisserer was offered the chance to make the movie sooner if he’d make the lead a man — Brandy McDonnell reports

Eric Heisserer spent more than a decade trying to get Ted Chiang’s award-winning 1998 sci-fi novella “Story of Your Life” made into a movie. Last year, under the direction of “Sicario’s” Denis Villeneuve, his dream finally arrived in theaters as “Arrival.” But the Oscar-nominated screenwriter says he could have seen it hit theaters much sooner if he was willing to make one major change: Turning the lead into a man instead of a woman. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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