MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 20: LITTLE PINK HOUSE

motw logo 1-35Courtney Balaker’s “Little Pink House” is a compelling drama based on the true story of Susette Kelo (Catherine Keener), a nurse who isn’t looking for anything bigger than a quiet life in the pink cottage she renovated herself in a decidedly unglamorous part of New London, Connecticut. But she’s destined to become the national face of an emotional court battle over eminent domain after the city comes for her home — and those of her neighbors — in the early 2000s so that pharmaceutical corporate giant Pfizer can build a new facility on the land. \Continue reading…

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LITTLE PINK HOUSE — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

little pink house posterMay we all be so lucky to have an always-mesmerizing actress like Catherine Keener play us if our lives ever inspire a film. Within the first few minutes of Little Pink House, the two-time Oscar nominee swiftly establishes real-life paramedic and nurse Susette Kelo as a thoughtful and quietly alluring life force to be reckoned with. Just the way she tends to the ailing mother of an old classmate and puts her at ease during an ambulance ride suggests she would be someone you would want to be at your side in a fight. It is not so surprising, then, that Susette would end up being the compelling face and voice of a nearly decade-long legal battle that would pit Big Pharma against blue-collar residents over the right of their town’s officials to invoke “eminent domain” to force them out of their humble abodes. The landmark case would eventually be tried by the Supreme Court in 2005 with Susette as the plaintiff. Continue reading…

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LITTLE PINK HOUSE — Review by Cate Marquis

A pink house is not for everyone but it was just right for Susette Kelo, especially with a lovely river view. When a local economic redevelopment organization tries to seize the Connecticut cottage she so lovingly rehabbed for a project to lure a Big Pharma company to the financially-strapped town, she fights – all the way to the Supreme Court. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 13, 2018: THE RIDER

motw logo 1-35Sweeping vistas and earnest, ultra-realistic performances are at the heart of Chloe Zhao’s moving drama “The Rider,” which follows the struggles of a modern cowboy after his promising rodeo career is cut short by a grave injury. The drama was filmed almost entirely on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and features Pine Ridge residents — members of the Lakota tribe — playing thinly fictionalized versions of themselves. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, April 6, 2018: MABEL MABEL TIGER TRAINER

motw logo 1-35More than just the story of the remarkable Mabel Stark and her eventful life, Leslie Zemeckis’ documentary Mabel, Mabel, Tiger Trainer is a fascinating glimpse into a world most of us will never experience, one of dangerous animals, fearless performers, and the nonstop behind-the-scenes drama of the big tent. It is also a chronicle of life of a gifted, determined and tougher than tigers woman performance artist in America from the turn of the nineteenth century to 1968. Continue reading…

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FOR WOMEN IN FILM, 2017 PRODUCED A BLOOM OF OPTIMISM ON THE HORIZON — Jennifer Merin comments

Annual stats tracking women’s work in the film industry consistently indicate that production gatekeepers are slow to welcome the work of female filmmakers, despite the recent successes of studio-backed femme-helmed and femme-centric blockbusters, and the ongoing inclusion initiatives of feminist groups such as the Alliance of Women Filmmakers and Film Fatales. However, despite the dismally static stats, AWFJ found an encouraging rise in the number of femme-centric and femme-helmed films released theatrically during 2017. Out of the 52 films we selected for #MOTW endorsement, 38 were directed by women. And, that number is even more impressive when you consider that for five of the year’s 52 weeks, we found no releasing films that met AWFJ standards for endorsement Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, March 30: OUTSIDE IN

motw logo 1-35Lynn Shelton’s “Outside In” is a delicately rendered, poignant drama about the power of human connection. It centers on Chris (Jay Duplass, who co-wrote the screenplay with Shelton), who’s just spent 20 years in prison after being convicted of a crime that wasn’t really his fault (wrong place, wrong time). Out on parole largely due to the tireless advocacy and research work of his former English teacher, Carol (Edie Falco), Chris returns to a small Pacific Northwest town that welcomes him back but doesn’t really have any idea what to do with him. Continue reading…

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OUTSIDE IN — Review by Nikki Baughan

outside in posterFor her first feature in four years, filmmaker Lynne Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister) turns in a bittersweet exploration of time lost, opportunities missed and the redemptive power of human connection. Co-writing with star Jay Duplass, who takes the central role of ex-con Chris, struggling to readjust to life in his small home town of Granite Falls, Washington, after 20 year in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Shelton has created a film that finds dramatic power and emotional resonance in the smallest, most seemingly mundane of moments. Continue reading…

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OUTSIDE IN — Review by Cate Marquis

Writer/director Lynn Shelton and co-writer Jay Duplass craft an intriguing, moving drama about the emotional bond between a man just released on parole after 20 years and his former teacher who worked tirelessly for his release. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 23, 2018: MADAME

motw logo 1-35Despite its (mostly) posh characters and haute Parisian dinner-party-centric premise, “Madame” isn’t just a zinger-filled drawing-room comedy. Rather, director/co-writer Amanda Sthers’ film is a cleverly satirical and easy to swallow examination of class, privilege, self worth, and the bone-deep insecurities that plague us all, whether we’re hosting luminaries or serving them coffee. Continue reading…

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MADAME — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

madame poster small“I think it’s going to rain.” Anne (Toni Collette) turns to her husband Bob (Harvey Keitel), her blond hair perfectly styled, her eyes hidden behind giant designer sunglasses. “Why do you have to be so pessimistic?”, she asks. The couple is paused during their bicycle ride through Paris, a suggestion by her therapist to spend some “romantic” time together. “I am not pessimisteeque,” he smiles, “I’m realisteeque,” the faux French accent underlining just how much he dislikes living in a city where “everything is old.” Anne looks away, her straddling her sturdy rental bike: “They’re the same thing for you.” Continue reading…

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MADAME — Review by Cate Marquis

Madame is a French comedy of manners from writer/director Amanda Sther, that plays with what happens when a wealthy hostess suddenly discovers that she needs one more dinner guest to avoid having the unlucky number 13, and decides to pass off her maid as one of the guests. But this is no costume drama set in the 18th century – this story takes place in modern Paris, with Harvey Keitel and Toni Collette playing the wealthy American couple, living in a Paris mansion. Continue reading…

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A FANTASTIC WOMAN — Review by Susan Granger

Filmmaker Sebastian Lelio examines the emotional stigma of transgender in this sensitive, Oscar-winning Chilean film. In Santiago, Martina Vidal (Daniela Vega) and Orlando Onetto (Francisco Reyes) are in love. She’s a young waitress/cabaret singer; he’s 20 years older, the owner of a printing company. After celebrating Martina’s birthday one evening, Orlando becomes ill, suffering a fatal aneurysm. Martina rushes him to the emergency room, but he dies on the operating table. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, March 16, 2018: IN THE LAND OF POMEGRANATES

motw logo 1-35Anyone who’s ever wondered why the possibility of peace in the Middle East seems permanently out of reach should watch “In the Land of Pomegranates,” Hava Kohav Beller’s thoughtful, thought-provoking documentary about the bitter Palestinian/Jewish conflict. Beller, an octogenarian who previously earned an Oscar nomination for 1991′s “The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler Within Germany 1933-1945,” spent more than a decade making this new film, and her patience pays off. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, March 9, 2018: CLAIRE’S CAMERA

motw logo 1-35Claire’s Camera is Cannes-centric. South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo set his quirky character-driven, genre-defying drama in the sun-drenched seaside resort town as the festival is taking place, but never visits the event’s star-studded glamour or industry hustle — both of which actually surrounded the film’s premiere at the festival in 2017. And, since the story is about friendship between two women, Claire’s Camera is femme-centric, too. Continue reading…

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CLAIRE’S CAMERA — Review by Cate Marquis

South Korean director Hong Sangsoo takes us to the Cannes Film Festival, not for a tale of red carpets and glittering parties but a quiet little contemplative drama about people on the fringes of the festival. Claire’s Camera is a South Korean/French production in Korean, English and a little French. Claire is Isabelle Huppert, playing a teacher from Paris who is attending the Cannes Film Festival with a friend who has a film in the festival. At loose ends, Claire meets and instantly bonds with another person on the other side of the velvet rope, a young South Korean film sales associate, Manhee (Kim Minhee). Continue reading…

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CLAIRE’S CAMERA — Review by Moira Sullivan

Claire’s Camera was featured at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. French actress Isabelle Huppert meets South Korean actress Kim Min-hee, known for her role in Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (2016 Vulcan award at Cannes). It is enough of a cinematic happening to drive South Korean director Hong Sangsoo to shoot Claire’s Camera in the environs of this festival, the most esteemed gathering for cinema achievements in the world. It took the protests at the May 1968 festival and the demands of festival critics like Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and François Truffaut to not only close down the festival that year but create a parallel section of films – the directors’ fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) where the reputation for auteur film was established. Rohmer’s Claire’s Knee (1970) comes to mind when viewing this contemplative impromptu film. Cannes inspires travelers, tourists and filmmakers alike to create films that capture its aura. This is Hong Sangsoo’s homage. Continue reading…

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OH LUCY! — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

“Open your mouth a little bit more. Let out more sound.” At her first English lesson, Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) learns from her teacher, John (Josh Hartnett), that to speak “American English,” “You need to be lazy, lazy and relaxed, let it go.” The one-on-one class proceeds: John misspells her name on his whiteboard, then gives her an American name, Lucy, before he advises, “Relax, don’t be nervous. Looks like you need a hug.” During the embrace, Setsuko is visibly uncomfortable, but he takes no notice. “What can I say”? he smiles, “I’m a hugger.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 2, 2018: OH LUCY!

motw logo 1-35A poignant ode to the need for human connection, Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Oh Lucy! (based on her own 2014 short film) is a quirky dramedy about a Tokyo office worker named Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima). When her solitary life is disrupted by a rather unusual English class taught by hug-happy American John (Josh Hartnett) — who gives her a curly blonde wig and an American name, Lucy — Setsuko starts down a path she never would have anticipated. Continue reading…

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OH LUCY! — Review by Cate Marquis

oh lucy posterDirector Atsuko Hirayanagi makes a strong feature film debut with “Oh Lucy,” a Japanese dramedy with a darker, absurdist undercurrent. Hirayanagi’s film is a tale of a middle-aged single Japanese women gaining a new view of life after signing up for a course to learn English that requires her to don a curly blonde wig and adopt a new identity as “Lucy.” Hirayanagi focuses on a type of character often overlooked and offers her unexpected second chance in life. The director also peppers her film with little absurdities alternating with some moments of bracing darkness. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 23, 2018: HALF MAGIC

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Heather Graham’s directorial debut, Half Magic, is completely femme-centric, but it won’t pass the Bechdel Test. Yes, the comedy focuses on three women who have viable careers and who talk to each other frequently — but almost all of their conversation is about men and sex. More specifically, about how to hook up with nicer men and have better sex. Continue reading…

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HALF MAGIC — Review by Cate Marquis

Three women with “man troubles” and low self esteem decide to form a team to both make their sex lives better and get what they really want in their love relationships, with a little help from some “magic candles,” in Heather Graham’s female-centric romantic comedy Half Magic. Continue reading…

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THE PARTY — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

THE PARTY POSTER 1“I think it’s going to unfold like the Tea Party, only bigger. It’s not #MeToo. It’s not just sexual harassment. It’s an anti-patriarchy movement. Time’s up on 10,000 years of recorded history. This is coming. This is real.” –Steve Bannon in Michael Lewis, “Has Anyone Seen the President“?

“In the film industry, we are also connected to the rhetoric in the political world — Trump and so on. Things that were unthinkable to say 10 years ago are being said again.” –Sally Potter in Orlando Parfitt, “Berlin Q&A: Sally Potter, ‘The Party‘” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 16, 2018: THE PARTY

motw logo 1-35Sally Potter’s “The Party” is an atmospheric, rapid-fire dark comedy about a celebratory dinner party where unexpected revelations come as quickly as bon mots. With its sophisticated script and minimalist setting (the whole thing takes place nearly in real time, in just a couple of rooms), “The Party” has the feel of a play adapted for the big screen. The fact that the all-star cast includes powerhouse actresses Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Cherry Jones, and Emily Mortimer — all of whom can dominate a stage with the best of them — underlines that impression. Continue reading…

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THE PARTY — Review by Anne Brodie

Sally Potter’s scathing social satire The Party, shot in black and white in three claustrophobic rooms is a gem, and thankfully short given the compression of nerves and tears and emotion. What may be the most unpleasant dinner party of all time brings together a perfectly presentable group of middle class English friends – a politician, artists, a banker, a professor, a realist and a healer. Continue reading…

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