THE SNOWMAN — Review by Susan Granger

When the director of a bizarre murder mystery admits that something went wrong, it’s worth noting. Here’s what Tomas Alfredson (“Let the Right One In,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation: “We didn’t get the whole story, and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It’s like when you’re making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing, so you don’t see the whole picture.” Alfredson added that the greenlight to shoot came “very abruptly,” and about 10-15% of the screenplay wasn’t even filmed. Which makes for a lot of plot holes. Continue reading…

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CHAVALA — Review by Martha K. Baker

It is entirely possible that you’ve never heard of Chavela Vargas, but the excellent documentary, “Chavela” will introduce you to this remarkable woman. She sang, not like a bird but like the earth. She sang ranchera, literally “a farmer’s song,” but figuratively, songs of love and loss, lots of loss. Continue reading

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THE FLORIDA PROJECT — Review by Susan Granger

Making its debut at the New York Film Festival, Sean Baker confounds with this incomprehensibly exuberant celebration of an insolent, six year-old delinquent and her irresponsibly volatile mother. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: October 27: NOVITIATE

motw logo 1-35If your idea of life in mid-20th-century convents is all about kindly nuns solving problems like Maria and climbing every mountain, Novitiate will be a real eye-opener. Writer/director Margaret Betts’ first feature-length drama tells the sometimes-bleak story of Cathleen (Margaret Qualley), an earnest young woman from Tennessee who decides to take the veil in the early 1960s, on the eve of the far-reaching Vatican II reforms that would change traditional church life forever. Continue reading…

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In Memory of Sandra Kraisirideja Orion — Guest Post by Edward Douglas

sandrakraisiridejaIt’s been hard to write this, because I’m still quite devastated by the fact that Sandra Kraisirideja Orion — or “Sandy K,” as I knew her for so long — is no longer with us. It’s a cliché for sure, but one that was entirely true: to know Sandy was to love her. There are few people on this planet who have as warm a smile and personality as Sandy did, one that could make you feel good just being around her. I was lucky to be able to spend time with her when I was at West Coast events and in Vegas for ShoWest. I cherish every minute I got to hang out with her even more now. Continue reading…

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FACES PLACES — Review by Susan Granger

French New Wave pioneer Agnes Varda, who made her first film in 1954, is now 89 years old – and as warm and vital as ever, even if her eyesight is fading. Working with acclaimed 34 year-old French photographer/muralist JR, she shares her lifelong passion for images and how they are created, displayed and shared in this personalized, pastoral documentary. Continue reading…

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Angela Robinson on PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN — Julide Tanriverdi interviews

angela robinson on set with cameraProfessor Marston and the Wonder Woman” tells the story of the man who created the female superhero. Consider it the other Wonder Woman movie, and it’s an indie. Like most indies it took writer/director Angela Robinson some time to get her movie made. She worked on the script on nights and weekends for over four years. Then it took another four years to get the film financed. Robonson had been a lifelong fan of Wonder Woman and was obsessed not only with the superhero but also with her creator, William Moulton Marston. He led a fascinating double life because he was hiding his polyamorous relationship with his wife and mistress. Interviewed by AWFJ.org at the Toronto International Film Festival, Angela Robinson spoke about why she needed to tell the Marston family story on screen. Continue reading…

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MARSHALL — Review by Susan Granger

Conceived by 74 year-old Westport attorney Michael Koskoff and his screenwriter son Jacob, this courtroom drama, set in Fairfield County, focuses on a rape case in 1941, when Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) was a crusading civil rights lawyer for the NAACP. After a Greenwich socialite, Mrs. Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson), accuses her African-American chauffeur, Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), of raping her and pushing her off a bridge, he’s arrested, and frightened white people across the country began firing their domestic workers. Continue reading…

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AWFJ is Heading for Whistler Film Festival, Nov 29- Dec 3 — Jennifer Merin reports

whistler logo 2017The Alliance of Women Film Journalists will present two juried EDA Awards for the Best Female-Directed Feature and Short Films at this year’s Whistler Film Festival (WFF) taking place from November 29 to December 3. This is the fourth consecutive year in which AWFJ has partnered with the Whistler Film Festival to honor the work of female directors whose films are being presented. Continue reading…

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PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN — Review by Susan Granger

angela robinson prof marston posterThis is, undoubtedly, the most kinky, provocative comic-book superhero ‘origin’ story – and it’s true! It begins with a public burning of “Wonder Woman” comics and the stern interrogation of Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) by Josette Frank (Connie Britton) of the Child Study Association of America, who grills him about his subversive obsession with bondage, which Marston maintains symbolizes his motivational theory. Continue reading…

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NOVITIATE — Review by Cate Marquis

novitiate posterNOVITIATE stars Margaret Qualley as Cathleen Norris, a 17-year-old raised by a non-religious single mother who nonetheless decides to enter a convent, and Melissa Leo as the Mother Superior of the strict cloistered order she chooses to join. Cathleen’s decision to follow a calling to the life religious coincides with the monumental changes of Vatican II. Director Margaret Betts offers a beautifully-shot, thoughtful drama, filled with some fine acting, particularly by Melissa Leo. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 20: THE DIVINE ORDER

motw logo 1-35Several decades after the Sexual Revolution swept across the United States (and around the world) during the late 1960s, it’s all too easy to gloss over just how earth-shattering a change the movement for greater feminine freedom made in the lives of so many women and their families, and to women’s roles in society. Petra Volpe’s entertaining political dramedy, The Divine Order, tells the story of unstoppable women who defied local traditions and oppressive husbands to fight for greater personal freedom. The film offers a compelling reminder of why we must continue to press forward for women’s rights. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Judd and Mirren Honored, Chenoweth Cast and Weinstein Ousted! — Brandy McDonnell reports

In an unprecedented move, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has terminated Harvey Weinstein’s membership, following the storm stirred by revelations of his sexual harassment of actresses and other women in his employ. Ashley Judd, who has spoken out about Weinstein’s transgressions, is to receive The Women’s Media Center’s Speaking Truth to Power Award on Oct. 26 at Capitale in New York City. Helen Mirren has been named the recipient of The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 45th annual Chaplin Award, to be presented at a gala on April 30, 2018. Kristin Chenoweth has signed on to star in and produce the ABC pilot “The Real Fairy Godmother,” playing a self-absorbed “real housewife” who learns that she’s descended from a secret order of Fairy Godmothers and is destined to use her magical abilities to help those in need. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US — Review by Susan Granger

Despite Idris Elba’s charismatic presence, this melodramatic survival story struggles to achieve a steady pace and tone, as the characters played by Elba and Kate Winslet fight to remain alive in the wilderness. When their paths cross in the airport after their flight to Denver is cancelled because of an impending storm, Alex Martin (Winslet) and Ben Bass (Elba) are desperate. She’s a photojournalist, frantic to get home for her scheduled wedding, while he’s a British neurosurgeon, determined not to miss urgent surgery on an ailing child. Continue reading…

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THE DIVINE ORDER — Review by Cate Marquis

THE DIVINE ORDER POSTERTHE DIVINE ORDER is a tale about a group of ordinary women in a Switzerland village who fought for women to get the vote. The surprising part is that this battle for the right to vote took place in 1971. Since American women got the vote in 1920, it’s easy for us to assume Europe quickly followed. But it seems Switzerland missed out on the earlier wave of women’s rights. Which meant that in 1971, Switzerland was catching up on the 1960s Sexual Revolution and the budding 1970s women’s liberation movement, the second time in the 20th century women took to streets to demand their rights. Continue reading…

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TIFF 2017: Angela Robinson on PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN — Pam Grady Interviews (Exclusive)

angela robinsn headtiff logoOne of the happy surprises of Toronto International Film Festival 2017, Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Women, may share the same DNA as Patty Jenkins’ blockbuster Wonder Woman, but it is an altogether different animal. This erotically charged, real-life drama spins the tale of how Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston’s (Luke Evans) muses, his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their lover Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote), led him to create the comic-book superheroine. The film is a fresh, sexy take on the origins of Amazonian warrior Diana. Writer/director Angela Robinson tells us her own origin story that starts with the gift of a book about a childhood favorite, as she reveals the wonder of William Moulton Marston and his women. Continue reading…

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THE FALL OF TOXIC MASCULINITY AND THE RISE OF FEMININE CONSCIOUSNESS — Chaz Ebert comments

WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO BELIEVE that the “casting couch” in Hollywood had vanished over time as a relic of a less-enlightened age. People in the entertainment industry, particularly certain men in power, minimized this tradition of abuse, likening it to a rite of passage. But as a former lawyer who has handled sexual harassment cases, I can affirm that this “ritual” of men in power taking advantage of the powerless and vulnerable with unwanted sexual advances or unpermitted touching and verbal and physical abuse is entirely unacceptable and illegal, and in some cases constitutes criminal sexual assault. Continue reading…

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VICTORIA & ABDUL — Review by Susan Granger

Undiscovered until 2010, this revelatory historical footnote chronicles an improbable friendship that enhanced the elderly British monarch’s final years. Bookended by a prologue and conclusion set in India, the period dramedy begins with a vivid depiction of how widowed, 81 year-old Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) was not only weary but also utterly bored by her perpetual Royal duties. Continue reading…

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JESUS CAMP — Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

Jesus Camp posterDon’t mistake Jesus Camp for Godspell! Even though it’s not a thriller, Jesus Camp is a truly terrifying film. It is, in fact, a purely observational documentary, one that serves as a galvanizing cautionary revelation about Evangelical indoctrination of children in heartland America. Framed by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s resignation and confirmation of ultraconservative Samuel Alito as her successor, we witness home-schooled preteens, Levi (12), Rachael (9) and Victoria (10) delivered by their Evangelical parents unto Bible camp at Devil’s Lake, ND, where Pentecostal Children’s Minister Becky Fischer ‘hooks them up’ (her words) with Jesus. Continue reading…

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LUCKY — Review by Martha K. Baker

Lucky is barely a moving picture, until it is. Watching paint dry involves more neurons at times than watching Lucky. Glaciers grow faster. And, then, just when it appears to defy the “moving” part of moving picture, Lucky perks up, like a corpse that twitches. That makes watching it worthwhile. Lucky is, after all, Harry Dean Stanton’s last film. Continue reading…

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FLATLINERS — Review by Susan Granger

Hollywood has suffered a disastrous summer because the major studios have raided the franchise larder too many times – and this unnecessary remake is one of the worst. Back in 1990, Joel Schumacher’s psychological horror/thriller picture was not only Oscar-nominated but made the top 20 box-office hits of the year. Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon, it had a provocative premise which is repeated this time ‘round. Continue reading

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 13, 2017: TAKE MY NOSE…PLEASE!

motw logo 1-35Any woman who’s ever felt dissatisfied with any aspect of her appearance — so, pretty much every woman — will find something to relate to in “Take My Nose … Please!” Documentarian Joan Kron (directing her first film at the age of 89!) blends her subjects’ personal stories with a broader survey of the media’s impact on female body image to create a film that’s simultaneously provocative and empathetic (as well as frequently laugh-out-loud funny). Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Taymor Hired, Weinstein Fired and Cameron is Still at It — Brandy McDonnell reports

Julie Taymor will helm a coming-of-age biopic about feminist journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, based on Steinem’s bestselling memoir My Life on the Road, adapted for the screen by Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Sarah Ruhl. Harvey Weinstein was terminated from The Weinstein Company Sunday following last week’s New York Times expose detailing decades of sexual abuse allegations made against the Oscar-winning producer by employees and actresses including Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan, among others. James Cameron is still trying to terminate feminist positivity about Wonder Woman, asserting that bustier-clad Gal Gadot is too beautiful to be groundbreaking. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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TAKE MY NOSE…PLEASE! — Review by Cate Marquis

take my nose please posterEvery woman has a body part she hates, maybe more than one. That makes ripe material for women comics. Women comics who joke about plastic surgery – Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, others – are among those featured in TAKE MY NOSE….PLEASE but this wickedly funny and fearlessly thoughtful documentary delves deeper. Though humor and more serious personal stories, director Joan Kron (making her directorial debut at age 89!) explores the double standard of looks for women and men, particularly in the entertainment field, with age discrimination, and the age gap in between leading men and leading women in films. Continue reading…

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AMERICAN MADE — Review by Susan Granger

As Gary Spinelli’s story unfolds, it’s obviously “based on a true lie,” meaning that the facts have been embellished but several things are clear. Back in the 1980s, Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) was a hotshot TWA pilot from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who sneaked Cuban cigars in his luggage and relieved his in-flight boredom by flipping a few switches and careening around the wild blue, as the resulting turbulence abruptly awakened sleeping passengers. Continue reading…

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