LEAVE NO TRACE — Review by Anne Brodie

Debra Granik’s sobering Leave No Trace, based on Peter Rock’s fact-based My Abandonment, follows a teenage girl and her father, homeless, on the run and camping in a huge urban park. It’s a compelling study of survival and family bonds, but it’s also about the war wounds and the lasting effects of PTSD. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 29, 2018: LEAVE NO TRACE

motw logo 1-35Debra Granik’s “Leave No Trace” is a mesmerizing, intimate drama about a teen girl named Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) who lives completely off the grid in the Oregon forest with her veteran father, Will (Ben Foster). As the film opens, you think perhaps they’re just on a camping trip, but it quickly becomes apparent that the camp is their home. It’s a happy one for them — they clearly love each other and have built a life that works — but it’s in a precarious bubble. Continue reading…

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LEAVE NO TRACE — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

The very idea of going off the grid sounds mighty appealing right about now. No cable news. No digital gadgets. No concerns about the future save for surviving day by day by using your own wits. Leave No Trace presents a truth-based back-to-nature utopia of sorts shared by Will, a military vet dad who has been left traumatized by his years of service, and Tom, his precociously perceptive teen daughter. Their tight bond as they live off the land in a nature reserve outside of Portland has echoes Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Thoreau’s Walden, yet feels like it is just the relief we need from our tumultuous times. Continue reading…

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LEAVE NO TRACE — Review by Nikki Baughan

With films like Winter’s Bone and documentary Stray Dog, Debra Granik has proved herself to be a masterful explorer of life on the margins of society. Her latest work, Leave No Trace – an adaptation of the novel by Peter Rock – again concerns itself with individuals attempting to exist outside societal norms and, in doing so, proves to be a moving study of love, loss and what it means to truly belong. Continue reading…

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LEAVE NO TRACE — Review by Cate Marquis

Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace is a gem of a film, a quietly gripping drama about a father and daughter living in a large heavily-forested park outside Portland, Oregon. The power of this film is in its warmth and authenticity, particularly in the the close bond between father and daughter. The film has moments of fear and suspense but there are no car chases, explosions or mayhem, just the drama of human life, a veteran coping with his trauma and trying his best to raise his daughter, a daughter who loves her father but does not share his inner demons. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 22, 2018: WOMAN WALKS AHEAD

motw logo 1-35History becomes “her”story (with a few factual tweaks) in Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead, which introduces audiences to Catherine Weldon (Jessica Chastain), a determined portrait artist who defies convention — and the U.S. government — in the late 1880s to fulfill her dream of painting legendary warrior Sitting Bull and learning about the Lakota people (who are part of the Sioux tribes). Chastain delivers another excellent performance as Weldon, who ultimately finds more than artistic inspiration on the open prairies. Continue reading…

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WOMAN WALKS AHEAD — Review by Nikki Baughan

woman walks ahead posterThe exploration of history through the female experience remains a rare thing in filmmaking – and perhaps nowhere more so than in the Western genre. Director Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead boldy takes on this overtly masculine cinematic landscape with this sensitive portrayal of real-life Native American rights campaigner Catherine Weldon, who travelled from 1880s New York City to the Dakota plains in order to paint legendary Chief Sitting Bull and subsequently became embroiled in their fight to regain control of their lands. Continue reading…

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MOUNTAIN — Review by Diane Carson

mountain posterMountain surveys attitudes toward the world’s highest peaks. Director Jennifer Peedom’s documentary essay is as varied as the subject it tackles. From black-and-white archival footage of the first mountaineers to contemporary high-tech daredevils, the relationship between humans and mountains encompasses everything from awe to terror, triumphs to disasters, enthralled obsession to unfettered risk taking. While not in depth on any one element, this overall meditative, fairly solemn consideration delivers a moving tribute to nature and a provocative examination of individuals confronting our highest peaks. Continue reading…

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WOMAN WALKS AHEAD — Review by Cate Marquis

Director Susanna White’s woman-centric Western stars Jessica Chastain as a painter who travels from New York into the West with the intention of painting Sitting Bull. Once again, Chastain lands a role as a strong woman carving out her own way in the world. The story is based on a real person, who did travel to North Dakota and became a confidant and adviser to the Lakota chief. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 15, 2018: WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST

motw logo 1-35Some iconic personalities are so much larger than life that it’s easy to forget that they’re real people who’ve led real lives — which makes it all the more fascinating to learn those details and really get to know the person behind the personality. Such is the promise, and payoff, of Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, Lorna Tucker’s insightful, fascinating documentary about English fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Continue reading…

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WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

WESTWOOD POSTERShe’s been a fixture of the counterculture since, well, she helped invent the punk aesthetic in London in the 1970s with her then-partner Malcolm McLaren, who dressed the band he managed — the Sex Pistols — in clothes she made, such as a T-shirt with straitjacket-esque too-long sleeves. Today, in her 70s, she remains an iconoclast in her artistic sense, her designs alive with funky prints and retro-futuristic shapes, as well as in her business sense: her company is almost unique among the big designers in that it is completely independent, not a subsidiary of a global corporation. So it’s difficult to believe that there hasn’t been a significant documentary about Vivienne Westwood until now. Continue reading…

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WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST — Review by Cate Marquis

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist, Lorna Tucker’s documentary of British punk fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, profiles a remarkable woman whose successful career grew out of her roots as a founder of the punk rock movement. Tucker introduces us to a true rebel, whose fashions are infused with both punk style and her own political activism, a woman who is as bold and cutting-edge in her 70s as in her 20s. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 8, 2018: NANCY

motw logo 1-35Fragile, unpredictable, and melancholy, the tone of writer/director Christina Choe’s debut feature Nancy is a lot like its main character, a lonely, rather purposeless and very sad woman who desperately needs meaning in her life. Played to perfection by Andrea Riseborough, the character of Nancy is complex, captivating, deliberately difficult to read and often hard to root for, but you can’t help getting caught up in her search for purpose and connection. Continue reading…

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NANCY — Review by Cate Marquis

nancy posterAndrea Riseborough plays a young woman who lives a life barely connected to reality in director Christina Choe’s Nancy. Nancy is is a lonely person, more connected to her cell phone and her online life than her life of caring for her sickly, complaining mother Betty (Ann Dowd) in the run-down home they share. Mom criticizes and complains to her daughter about being neglected but Nancy can barely break away from the fantasy life she prefers to the grim real one with her mother. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK June 1, 2018: SOCIAL ANIMALS

motw logo 1-35There’s no question about it — adulting is hard. But sometimes, as the characters in writer/director Theresa Bennett’s debut comedy Social Animals learn, you have to step up and be the grown-up in the room. Especially if that also means you get to be a bit happier and more fulfilled than you were before. Social Animals follows a group of quirky, young, mostly female Austinites as they grapple with careers (or lack thereof), relationships (ditto), and friendship. Continue reading…

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SOCIAL ANIMALS — Review by Cate Marquis

social animals posterWriter/director Theresa Bennett’s debut feature film Social Animals is a light, quirky comedy about modern romance, Austin, TX style. Social Animals doesn’t offer social commentary, so much as kind of mock social commentary, and is so packed with quirk and ironic Millennial humor about sex, friendship, relationships and just trying to make a living, that it may explode. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 25, 2018: MARY SHELLEY

motw logo 1-35Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour‘s biopic about Frankenstein author Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin’s passionate romance with poet Percy Bysshe Shelley — and Godwin/Shelley’s struggle to be recognized as a female author — is a compelling, atmospheric drama with strong performances by a talented cast. It is the truth-based tale of a truly gifted woman who courageously rebelled against the repressive customs of her day. Continue reading…

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LET THE SUNSHINE IN — Review by Diane Carson

letsunshinein.PLet the Sunshine In charts Isabella’s mid-life attempts at romance. French cinema specializes in narratives mining the infinitely intricate and often exasperating difficulties of modern relationships among family members, friends and lovers. French writer/director Claire Denis is no stranger to such subjects, probably still best known here for Chocolat (1988) and perhaps 35 Shots of Rum (2008). Now her Let the Sunshine In tackles the daunting challenges of middle-aged romance. Continue reading…

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RBG — Review by Diane Carson

RBG celebrates Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s amazing career and life. Twice in the documentary, Ruth Bader Ginsburg quotes nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragette Sarah Grimké, “I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” RBG’s decades of legal work is testament to her lifetime commitment to human dignity and equality. Continue reading…

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MARY SHELLEY — Review by Cate Marquis

It is a bit surprising that no one else has made a movie about English author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the writing of her book Frankenstein, arguably the first science fiction novel. Interestingly, it is Haifaa Al-Mansour, a ground-breaking woman who directs Mary Shelley. Al-Mansour is the first Saudi woman director, and the film’s script is by another woman, Emma Jensen. Elle Fanning plays Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the teen girl who falls for poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, an admirer of her radical philosopher father William Godwin. Continue reading...

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 18, 2018: SUMMER 1993

motw logo 1-35Unhurried, poignant, and extremely naturalistic, Catalan filmmaker Carla Simon’s debut feature “Summer 1993″ tells the story of 6-year-old Frida (Laia Artigas), whose world is turned upside down after her mother’s death. She leaves their home in Barcelona to go live with her uncle, aunt, and young cousin in the countryside; they welcome her with love, but the transition period isn’t easy for any of them. Continue reading…

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LITTLE PINK HOUSE – Review by Martha K. Baker

little pink house posterLittle Pink House is a subdued look at a hated judicial ruling. This is one for the Supreme Court: in a 5-4 decision, Kelo v. City of New London (Conn.) judges gave officials of the city government the right, the power, to raze a neighborhood so a corporation, not a hospital or a library but a multi-million-dollar corporation, could benefit. That neighborhood happens to be where Susette Kelo bought a ramshackle house in 2000 and painted it pink. She had no idea that her property would interest the fine folks at the Pfizer Corp. Its officers came to New London, enticed by the mayor and by a public relations agent, to develop on waterfront property. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 11, 2018: MOUNTAIN

motw logo 1-35The word “majestic” doesn’t do justice to the stunning visuals in Jennifer Peedom’s documentary “Mountain” — but it’s quite possible that no word is up to the task of capturing this film’s sweeping, monumental imagery. When combined with the gravitas of Willem Dafoe’s narration and the power of the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s score (composed by Richard Tognetti), the result is a movie that begs to be seen on the largest, highest-definition screen available. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 4, 2018: RBG

motw logo 1-35As the saying goes, not all superheroes wear capes. In fact, some might even be clad in black robes and lace collars. That’s the emotional takeaway from Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s excellent documentary “RBG,” which tells the story of iconic Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Tracing her life from childhood through the present, the film both humanizes Ginsburg and cements exactly why she’s so beloved by those who are passionate about women’s rights and gender equality. Continue reading…

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Talking RBG with Katie, age 8 — Interview by Betsy Bozdech

rbg poster 2Girls growing up in a world full of “She Persisted” T-shirts, Hilary Clinton bumper stickers, and books like Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls and Rad Women from A-Z may already know the name Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But they’re guaranteed to learn a lot more about “The Notorious RBG” from Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s energizing documentary RBG. I had the privilege of watching it with my 8-year-old daughter (who recognized some of the archival photos from her beloved copy of I Dissent) and talking about the film with her afterward. Continue reading…

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