PATTI CAKE$ — Review by Cate Marquis

PATTI CAKE$ is a winning underdog tale, about an overweight 23-year-old white woman whose youthful dreams of being a rapper are fading while she struggling to get by in lower working class New Jersey. Patti (Australian actress Danielle Macdonald) lives with, and takes care of, her hard-drinking, sometimes abusive mother (Bridget Everett) and wheelchair-bound Nana (Cathy Moriarty) in a cramped, squalid apartment. Patti supports them all working as bartender in a local dive bar. and her only escape is rapping and hanging-out with her only friend, fellow rapper Raneesh (Siddharth Dhananjay). She calls him Jheri and he calls her Killa P., but daily Patti stoically endures the neighborhood bullies who call her Dumbo. Together with a shy, angry black punk rocker (Mamoudou Athie ), Patti takes a last shot at her dream. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Films of 2017, To Date

motw logo 1-35Focusing specifically on films directed by women as well as those featuring strong female lead characters and female-centric stories, AWFJ’s Team #MOTW has endorsed 31 exceptional films during 2017, to date. Because we pick only one film for our Movie of the Week endorsement, we’ve actually had to pass up a good number of other superb films that qualified, but were not our collective top choice. Now that we’ve arrived at the midway point in this year’s release schedule, we’re pausing to look back at all the films we’ve considered for #MOTW endorsement, and we are pleasantly surprised to note the volume of wonderful films made by and about women. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 28-August 4: STEP

motw logo 1-35An inspiring documentary about a group of African-American teen girls who find success through a mix of hard work, grit, high expectations, and dedicated mentorship, Amanda Lipitz’s Step is both engaging and uplifting. It follows the competitive step-dancing team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a public charter school with a very ambitious goal: that all of its graduates attend college. Continue reading…

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STEP — Review by Cate Marquis

The inspirational documentary STEP follows a girls’ step dance team at a Baltimore charter high school, both in their quest to win a big step dance competition and to get into college. The story takes place in the shadow of the unrest and protests that gripped Baltimore in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray. Echoes of Ferguson, Michael Brown and Black Lives Matter are present as well. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Cate Marquis

Director Pamela Yates well-made, affecting 500 YEARS is the third and final film in her documentary series on Guatemala and the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in that country. Although the film is the third in the series, it stands well on its own, recapping critical points from the first two films. Clips from the first two films, WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE and GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR, are included in this final one. The first film, in 1983, actually provided evidence in the trial of former military leader and president Montt, that trial being the subject of the second film. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Jennifer Merin

pamela yates 500 years poster500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with its companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

THE MIDWIFE POSTER‘We’ll never understand each other.” Claire (Catherine Frot) stands abruptly, ready to leave the restaurant where she’s just sat down with Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve). A long shot near the start of Martin Provost’s The Midwife (Sage Femme) reveals other diners, oblivious to the drama at center screen. Béatrice gazes up at Claire, surprised at her upset: “We were just starting to be friends again.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 14-21: THE MIDWIFE

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Two women, one old wound, and a whole lot of wine. Boiled down to its essential ingredients, Martin Provost’s new film The Midwife is diverting enough, filled with small pleasures, and sometimes that is enough. Especially when the two women are so beautifully portrayed by Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Jeanne Wolf

“The Midwife” is worth watching just to see two great actresses share the screen as women with entirely different personalities and views on life. It is funny and touching to see Catherine Deneuve fighting aging and illness – nothing like you’ve ever seen her do on the screen before. I couldn’t stop staring at this beauty with too much and too smeary make-up — too many dress sizes up–too wobbly in her high heels. What kept me riveted was her spirit- the kind of “watch me be naughty and excessive” attitude that only a woman who has been adored by men her whole life can live out. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Director Martin Provost wrote Midwife’s script specifically for his stars, French legends Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve, and he is beautifully attuned to each actor’s strengths. Frot (Marguerite, La Nouvelle Eve) is the titular midwife, Claire, and the most important birthing she needs to attend to at the moment is the next stage of her life. Continue reading…

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THE BEGUILED — Review by Susan Granger

Stylish filmmaker Sofia Coppola (“Marie Antoinette,” “Lost in Translation”) has adapted Don Siegel’s lurid 1971 Clint Eastwood western, based on the pulpy 1966 Thomas P. Cullinan novel. Set in war-ravaged Virginia in 1864, it begins as a badly wounded Union solder, Corporal John McBurney (Colin Farrell), collapses near Miss Farnsworth’s Seminary for Young Ladies, where he’s spotted by a youngster, curious Miss Amy (Oona Laurence), who is collecting mushrooms in the moss-draped woods. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 7 – 14: LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD

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The word indefatigable may well have been fashioned for the likes of Gertrude Bell. At a time, when women were largely confined to the domestic sphere, Bell climbed mountains, rode camels, palled about with Lawrence of Arabia, and penned letters, mountains of them, all the while dressed in impeccable fashion.Continue reading…

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LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

letters from baghdad posterIf there was any justice in the world, T.E. Lawrence — aka Lawrence of Arabia — would be known as “the male Gertrude Bell,” instead of Bell being spoken of, when she is spoken of at all, as “the female Lawrence of Arabia.” Lawrence, 20 years her junior, was barely out of diapers when Bell first journeyed from England to the Middle East, and by the time he was traipsing around the desert, he was using intelligence on the local landscape — political and well as geographical — that she had gathered by living and working among the Arab tribes and gaining their enormous respect. By the post World War I period that saw the end of Ottoman rule of the Middle East and the beginning of the West deciding how to carve up the region, Bell — traveler, adventurer, diplomat, spy — was the one English person, of any gender, who knew the most about the region and who was best able to advise on how not to make a mess of it. When Lawrence of Arabia hit the desert, he used intelligence about the landscape that Gertrude Bell had gathered. And yet, a mess it quickly became, and still remains… which Bell foresaw, as we learn in the stunning Letters from Baghdad. Read full review.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 30-July 6: THE BEGUILED

motw logo 1-35With her sixth feature, director Sofia Coppola can no longer be denied the appellation of auteur… if she ever could. The lush visuals, sultry atmosphere, and almost serene sense of the sinister that infuses The Beguiled add intriguing new layers to the distinctive signature approach to cinematic storytelling Coppola has been developing since her debut with 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. Continue reading…

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THE BEGUILED – Review by Cate Marquis

Sophia Coppola’s atmospheric period thriller THE BEGUILED is a re-make of a 1971 psycho-sexual thriller starring Clint Eastwood. Coppola re-frames the Civil War story from a woman’s viewpoint, where a wounded Union soldier is taken in by a house full of Southern women and girls at a young ladies’ boarding school in the rural South. What looks like a sexual fantasy come true for the soldier turns out less than dreamy. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 23-30: BAND AID

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“Love is hell” might very well be the title of one of the original songs featured in the new romantic comedy Band Aid, this week’s Movie of the Week. Although in the parlance of Zoe Lister-Jones’ directorial debut, calling the song “Love is heck” might actually be more fitting. Continue reading…

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BAND AID — Review by Cate Marquis

A young married couple who just can’t stop arguing decide to turn their fights into songs, in the indie comedy BAND AID. Writer/director/producer Zoe Lister-Jones also stars in this film, her directorial debut. BAND AID is lifted by its well-done musical sequences, tuneful and surprisingly enjoyable, but the humor is more uneven. Continue reading…

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MAUDIE — Review by Susan Granger

Sally Hawkins delivers an exquisite performance as eccentric Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis. Set in the late 1930s in rural Nova Scotia, Maud has been crippled since childhood with rheumatoid arthritis. Cheated out of her parents’ inheritance by her selfish brother Charles (Zachary Bennett), she’s sent to live in Digby with her stern, spinster Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose), who treats her as if she’s feeble-minded. Continue reading…

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MAUDIE — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

“Slim pickins applied for the job.” Everett (Ethan Hawke) is disappointed. A fishmonger in Nova Scotia, he’s put up an advertisement in search of a live-in housecleaner. Times are hard during the 1930s, and as he insists more than once, Everett doesn’t plan to pay much or change his routine. The one person who does apply is Maud (Sally Hawkins), looking to support herself for the first time, after her brother Charlie (Zachary Bennett) sold their house without consulting her. Neither Everett nor Maud can imagine the future they’re about to share. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 16 – 23: MAUDIE

motw logo 1-35 Director Aisling Walsh’s film Maudie centres around the life and work of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. Lewis is familiar to Canadians and to art lovers around the world from her iconic paintings, made during the latter part of her life, but the film actually begins with the portrait of the artist as a young woman. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN News Wrap: “Wonder Woman” soars, “Mummy” stumbles, plus Cowperthwaite, DuVernay and Winfrey — Brandy McDonnell reports

Wonder Woman” really unwrapped “The Mummy” at this week’s box office, while Gabriela Cowperthwaite‘s “Megan Leavey” took an unexpectedly big bite of the take, too — again proving to Hollywood that American filmgoers — both women and men — love seeing women’s stories on the big screen. Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey speak out for diversity and inclusion. Read all the details on THE WEEK IN WOMAN.

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Gabriela Cowperthwaite on MEGAN LEAVEY — Nell Minow interviews

gabriela cowperthwaiteGabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary “Blackfish” showed us that the orcas performing tricks at SeaWorld were in severe distress. Her first narrative feature film, “Megan Leavey,” is another story about the complicated but profound workplace relationship between a human and an animal, based on the true story of a Marine Corporal and a specially trained, very fierce dog named Rex. Continue reading…

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MEGAN LEAVEY — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

MEGAN LEAVEY POSTER“I left this place a thousand times in my mind, but I never actually went anywhere,” says Megan Leavey (Kate Mara). That place is home, a small town in upstate New York with an unsupportive mother (Edie Falco) and a kindly but mostly absent father (Bradley Whitford). Megan’s sense of confinement shapes the early scenes in Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s movie: trucks, railroad tracks, and a hulking factory form internal frames as she looks off-screen. Her escape is the Marines: it’s 2003 and the war in Iraq is underway, a war the movie uses a backdrop for the story of Megan’s coming of age. Continue reading…

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MEGAN LEAVEY — Review by Susan Granger

While “Wonder Woman” celebrates a fantasy hero, “Megan Leavey” reveals the true story of a real woman, a Marine in combat, and the bomb-sniffing German Shepherd who becomes her constant companion. Growing up in suburban Valley Cottage, New York, Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), admittedly, doesn’t connect with people very well, nor does Rex, the large, aggressive, allegedly uncontrollable Military Working Dog dog with whom she’s paired in Marine K-9 training at Camp Pendleton. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 9 – 16: MEGAN LEAVEY

motw logo 1-35A film about a woman and a dog already has one at a distinct advantage. Critical faculties are of little avail against the soulful eyes of an adorable canine. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film Megan Leavey (opening June 9, 2017) pulls at the heartstrings with near shameless abandon, and for the most part it works. – Continue reading…

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