Melbourne International Film Festival 2017′s PIONEERING WOMEN Program — Jennifer Merin reports

miff logo 1The success of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014) focused international attention on Australian women filmmakers. Australia’s film feminism is being celebrated this year in special programming at the country’s two major film festivals — in the upcoming Melbourne International Film Festival’s (MIFF, August 3-30, 2017) focus on female-directed films from the 1980s and 90s, and with the just finishing Sydney Film Festival’s (June 7-18, 2017) roster of femme-helmed films from the 1960s and 70s. 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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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 WEEK IN WOMEN News: Geena Davis, Alicia Silverstone and New Stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame

Geena Davis celebrates 25th anniversary of ‘A League of Their Own,’ while Alicia Silverstone reflects on the legacy of ‘Clueless.’ Plus, Jennifer, Lawrence, Zoe Saldana, Carrie Underwood, Kirsten Dunst, Taraji P. Henson and more will get stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018. Read the details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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EYE ON MEDIA: Representing Trump — Martha P. Nochimson comments

nochimson trump 1The recent furor about Oskar Eustis’ open air production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in New York City in which Caesar was dressed up to look like Donald Trump and Calpurnia had a Slavic accent started me thinking about the larger issue of imaginatively representing the current occupant of the White House. There is an obvious desire to reflect on the terrible plight of America under the Trump administration through humor and storytelling, and our friends around the world support that inclination. Continue reading on EYE ON MEDIA.

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

THE MIDWIFE POSTERTwo great Catherines – Deneuve and Frot – star in THE MIDWIFE, a thoughtful French-language tale of family, childhood memories, and changing life in modern France. As the title suggests, one of the central characters is a midwife, a profession with a long and honorable history bringing the next generation into this world. Claire (Catherine Frot) is a really good one, the best at the little clinic near Paris where she works, but the small old-fashioned clinic is closing down, unable to compete with the big modern hospital nearby. Claire resists the idea of going to work for the big hospital, as she resists so many other changes. At home, Claire put aside her own personal life to concentrate on raising her son, now a student in medical school. 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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LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD — Review by Cate Marquis

Middle East experts often point to how national boundaries were drawn by European colonial powers after World War I as essential to understanding region’s modern tensions. A little known fact is that a British woman played a central role in the shaping of those boundaries – Iraq in particular. That woman, Gertrude Bell, is the focus of the documentary LETTERS FROM BAGHDAD from directors Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbuhl. Continue reading…

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THE END OF AMERICA — Documentary Retroview by Jennifer Merin

end-of-america-posterReleased in 2008, Ricki Stern and Anni=e Sundburg’s compelling documentary is a still timely analysis and report about the ten step blueprint to establishing a dictatorship that Hitler and other dictators used to subvert democratic process and put an end to personal freedoms. The film compares, step by step, events leading up to establishment of the Third Reich with what has happened in the United States in recent years. Very convincing. Very scary. And, before it’s absolutely too late to take action, it should be required viewing for anyone old enough to vote, pay taxes or join the army. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN…

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ROUGH NIGHT — Review by Susan Granger

Feminism takes a couple of steps backward with this estrogen-forced comedy in which a Miami bachelorette weekend goes awry. Trying for a gender-flipping reversal on “The Hangover” and “Very Bad Things,” blended with “Bridesmaids,” the raucous riff revolves around Jess Thayer (Scarlett Johansson), who is running for the Florida state senate. While she projects a strait-laced image, Jess wasn’t always a goody-two-shoes. Continue reading…

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THE HERO — Review by Martha K. Baker

Fans of Sam Elliott will line up to see him star in “The Hero.” For the Sam Elliott Fan Club, the film offers plenty of views of his push broom mustache, the envy of miners throughout Silesia, and of his lanky lenghth, plus the exhilarating sound of that bass voice. But, ‘The Hero’ rides small in the saddle. Continue reading…

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THE BEGUILED — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

the beguiled posterThe original 1971 “The Beguiled” pitted Clint Eastwood’s wounded Union solider Corp. John McBurney against the residents of a Southern girls’ school during the Civil War who treat him like a prisoner while fantasizing how he could be the man of their dreams. This handsome and wily manipulator seems to know his effect on the woman folk from the opening scene as he steals a kiss from the 12-year-old student who has found him. As directed by Don Siegel, the jealousies and rivalries that develop are deliberately stirred up by Eastwood’s male interloper who acts like a rooster in a hen house who can’t fly away. This is clearly a war of the sexes, and despite igniting an ongoing catfight atmosphere, his McBurney fails to see he is outnumbered nine to one, including a head mistress, a teacher, a slave and six students. Continue reading…

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BAND AID — Review by Martha Baker

‘Band Aid’ trembles before troubles. They argue. They bicker. They fight and bare their claws. They are a young married couple with issues. Anna’s a writer who feels like a failure because lesser writers she knows have solid careers. Ben feels maligned by life, and he leaves dirty, filthy, crusty dishes overflowing in their sink. Continue reading…

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MY COUSIN RACHEL — Review by Susan Granger

Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel is the epitome of Gothic melodrama, filled with an insidious sense of danger and death. Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley (Sam Claflin) was raised by his bachelor uncle Ambrose on a picturesque country estate on England’s Cornish coast. Content with his horses and dogs, Ambrose “never had much need for women.” Yet on a trip to Florence, Italy, elderly Ambrose met and married his distant cousin Rachel (Rachel Weisz). Soon after, he fell ill and died. 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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THE WEDDING PLAN — Review by Martha K Baker

weddibg plan poster‘The Wedding Plan’ toasts the bride-to-be. Watch Noa Koler. She plays the bride-to-be in Rama Burshtein’s “The Wedding Plan.” You’ll see why she won Israel’s Ophir Award for Best Actress. She has comic chords within her, but she plays the role of the bride with serious intention — really, the only way in this delightful film. Michal has been dis-engaged by her fiancé very soon after she insisted he tell her why he was blue. The break-off occurs within weeks of their up-coming nuptials, but being an Orthodox Jew and believing strongly that God has a plan for her, Michal, does not cancel the wedding, planned for the last night of Hanukkah. By God, Michal is going to be married. Continue reading…

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Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2017: Feminist Programming — Jennifer Merin reports

humanrightswatchfflogo1The 28th Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 9-18, 2017) presents topical and provocative feature documentaries that showcase courageous resilience in challenging times. In an era of global advances by far-right forces into the political mainstream, assaults on the free press, and the rise of “citizen journalism,” festival organizers hope that the films in this year’s program can serve as inspiration and motivation for the audience, from seasoned activists to those searching for a role in local and global movements. Ten of the 21 programmed documentary feature films are directed by women. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK, May 26 to June 2, 2017: THE FIFTH ELEMENT

motw logo 1-35Twenty years after it cleaned up at the box office while simultaneously polarizing critics, Luc Besson’s colorful, action-packed sci-fi extravaganza is as bonkers as ever. It has elements that are reminiscent of both “Total Recall” (1990) and “Stargate” (1994), but “The Fifth Element” is loudly, proudly its own beast — and it all hinges on Milla Jovovich’s iconic performance. Continue reading…

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NORMAN — Review by Susan Granger

The satirical subtitle says it all: “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer,” as New York-born Israeli writer/director Joseph Cedar fashions a dryly witty character study. Continue reading

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THE DINNER — Review by Susan Granger

When teenagers commit a heinous crime, how should their parents react? That’s the ethical dilemma propelling writer/director Oren Moverman’s meandering morality play/meditation, based on Dutch novelist Herman Koch’s controversial bestseller, first published in the Netherlands in 2009. Continue reading…

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THEIR FINEST — Review by Martha K. Baker

Their Finest is a nicknamed title for this movie history. It whispers of Winston Churchill’s history, entitled Their Finest Hour, and cuts into the title of Lissa Evans’ novel on which Gaby Chiappe based, Their Finest Hour and a Half. That title suggests whimsy, but the movie exceeds persiflage. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK May 5 – 12: CASTING JONBENET

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At first glance, Kitty Green’s documentary Casting JonBenét seems a rather high concept conceit — a recreation of the infamous child murder that riveted the US, and was the grist for countless tabloid stories, films, books, as well as a few lawsuits. What could possibly be left to say, one might well ask? Continue reading…

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TRUMAN — Review by Martha K. Baker

Ordinarily, a visit from an old friend calls for drinks and dinner, trips to old haunts, and tête-a-tête, plus reminiscences. But when one of the friends has decided to cease chemotherapy for the cancer he’s fought for a year, the visit becomes something else. It undergirds this moving movie. Continue reading…

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GIFTED — Review by Martha K. Baker

In ‘Gifted,’grand moments offset sentiment. “Gifted” could have arisen from the sentimental slough of Hollywood films. That it does not, that it has moments of sterling silver among the nods to craven consumerism are testaments to the reins of its writer, Tom Flynn, and director, Marc Webb, who also directed “500 Days of Summer.” “Gifted” is not just the glory story of a child lifted out of the ordinary. It is, instead, a debate over providing a real childhood to a math genius, who, at 7, has a mouth on her as well as a brain. Continue reading…

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HEAL THE LIVING — Review by Cate Marquis

heal the living poster frenchThree narrative threads – parents facing with the accidental death of their 17-year-old son, the medical staff of an organ transplant team, and a middle-aged female musician dying of heart failure – are woven together in French director Katell Quillévéré’s medical drama HEAL THE LIVING. This is the third and most polished of her films, her previous works being SUZANNE AND LOVE LIKE POISON. Read on…

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