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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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 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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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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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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MANOLO: THE BOY WHO MADE SHOES FOR LIZARDS — Review by Martha K. Baker

Manolo balances shoe business with show business. Manolo Blahnik’s name is synonymous with shoes — wild, nose-bleed, calf-lenthening, knee-knocking shoes of amazing construction. Shoes that demand attention and admiration. Shoes whose cost is out of the reach of most women but will forever be connected to Sex and the City if not to anything real. Continue reading…

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STRONGER — Review by Susan Granger

This is the inspiring, true story of 28 year-old Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), who lost both his legs in the infamous 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Hard-drinking Bauman, who worked in Costco’s deli department, wasn’t running that April day. He was a spectator, waiting at the finish line for his ex-girlfriend, Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany), a hospital administrator, who was running for charity. They’d broken up and he was hoping they’d get back together. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 6, 2017: FACES PLACES

motw logo 1-35Celebrated filmmaker Agnes Varda is no stranger to making films about everyday, relatable people — including herself. FACES PLACES, her collaboration with photographer/artist J.R. (he’s known only by his initials), chronicles the pair’s friendship and partnership while introducing audiences to a wide range of French people, who share their communities and fascinating stories with Varda and J.R. in exchange for powerful, personalized public art installations. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT October 2017: Agnès Varda, Filmmaker, Honorary Oscar Recipient, Director of FACES PLACES

“You decide you do something, then you are totally ready for things to happen.” Agnès Varda, on YouTube

agnes headsho croppedawfjspotlightsmallsmallFilm director Agnès Varda was talking about her process for creating documentaries, but she might as well have been talking about her storied career as the only female director of the French New Wave. Over her 63 years (and counting) of filmmaking, Varda has created a vast body of work composed not only of documentaries, but also short films and features. She is also an accomplished photographer. And now, at age 89, Varda has a new film and a new honor to add to her crowded list of awards and recognitions. Continue reading…

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THE BEACHES OF AGNES — Retroview by Jennifer Merin

beaches of agnes posterIn The Beaches of Agnes (Les Plages d’Agnes), the legendary French filmmaker (who directed the narrative Cleo From Nine to Five and documentary The Gleaners, among other classics) revisits her childhood, presents footage of her young womanhood and tells of the start of her career as a photographer and cinematographer, of her eventual marriage to French New Wave director Jacques Demy and motherhood, and brings us up to the present. Mme Varda is 80 years old as this film releases theatrically in the U.S. in July, 2009, and she’s still going strong. Very strong. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Focus on Feminism and Diversity in TE ATA — Brandy McDonnell reports

te ata 1 croppedTe Ata brings a trailblazing Native American storyteller’s story to the screen. Q’orianka Kilcher plays the Chickasaw actress who introduced her people’s legends to audiences worldwide. Born in Indian Territory, Mary Frances Thompson grew up steeped Chickasaw lore. Drama teachers at Oklahoma College for Women encouraged her to weave American Indian stories into her performances. Taking the name “Te Ata,” (“bearer of the morning”), she left Broadway theater to share Native American stories – a path leading to her White House performance at President Franklin Roosevelt’s first state dinner in 1933. Te Ata continued storytelling even as the federal Code of Indian Offenses prohibited American Indians from practicing their culture. The film was produced by the Chickasaw Nation, who wanted to tell the story their way. Read about the production and what screenwriter Jennie Barbour has to say about it on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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TIFF 2017: Best and Noteworthy Films — Julide Tanriverdi comments

tiff logoIt’s the one question that people keep asking you after you return from a film festival: Which movie did you like best? That is obviously not always easy to answer since there is a vast selection (this year TIFF showed more than 200 films). I was able to watch only 21 of them within a week. These are my personal picks. Continue reading…

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Guest Post: Dr. Albertine Fox on Sight, Sound and Feminst Perception in the Movies (Exclusive)

albertine fox 3In her soon-to-be published book, Godard and Sound: Acoustic Innovation in the Late Films of Jean-Luc Godard, Dr. Albertine Fox focuses on the iconic French director’s filmography to introduce her striking analysis of how the integration of disparate elements of sight and sound bring audiences to a heightened, transformative level of perception. In her exclusive commentary about writing the book, Dr. Fox connects sight and sound interplay to currently trending concerns about women’s representations and issues about diversity in cinema. Continue reading…

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UNFRIENDED — Review by Susan Granger

Like Unfriended, Simon Verhoeven taps into social media to propel this tech-terror thriller which starts out with a provocative premise before it inevitably dissolves into clichéd carnage. College student Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is undoubtedly one of the most popular coeds on campus. Since she has more than 800 ‘friends,’ she graciously accepts a ‘friend’ request from lonely Marina Mills (Liesl Ahlers), a strange, hoodie-clad, Goth-like classmate. Continue reading…

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VICTORIA AND ABDUL — Review by Martha K. Baker

Victoria and Abdul scores on every point, defining the biopic “based on a true story.” Not one single false step. No blurred foci. Under Stephen Frears’ impeccable direction, Lee Hall’s script, based on Shrabani Basu’s remarkable research, shines into the far back reaches of the theater. The cast, topped by Dame Judi Dench, acquits itself beautifully. Continue reading…

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