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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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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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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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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THE FENCE: Documentary RetroView by Jennifer Merin

the fence poster rory kennedyDo We Want or Need a Fence Along the US-Mexico Border? Rory Kennedy’s 2010 documentary provides the answers, chronicling fence history from 2008, when the US government decided to build a 700-mile long fence along the 2000-mile border with Mexico. Intended to block terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering the country, the fence was built by 19 construction companies, 350 engineers, thousands of construction workers using tens of thousands of tons of metal — at a cost of $3-billion. Filmmaker Rory Kennedy uses statistics, archival and new footage, interviews with experts and humorous commentary to investigate the project’s impact and question its value, effectiveness and ethics. Read more on CINEMA CITIZEN

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Caro and Chastain challenge status quo, Robbie scores revisionist ROBIN HOOD, Ivy Film Fest plays women composers and more — Brandy McDonnell reports

Set to direct Disney’s live action remake of Mulan, Niki Caro becomes the fourth woman director to helm a $100-million movie. Jessica Chastain says she is looking for roles that push against societal constraints. Margot Robbie set to star in Marian, a revisionist version of the macho Robin Hood tale. Women composers are featured at this year’s Ivy Film Festival, Brown University’s student-run showcase. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN

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THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE — Review by Martha K. Baker

zookeepers wife poster In case you think there are already too many films about the Holocaust, consider this: the managers of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam have to add more history of the Holocaust so that the people who stood in line for two hours know what they’re looking at.
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” presents one of those personal stories within the context of history. The film, while not as smashing a piece of art as “Schindler’s List,” holds up nobly in the sub-genre that is the Holocaust film.
It opens in Poland in 1939 as the National Socialist German Workers’ Party storms in. The Zabinskis, who run the Warsaw Zoo, are caught in the blitz, but they soon figure out a way to bedevil the enemy. Jan and Antonina have Jewish friends. They are not going to let them suffer, so they offer them succor, albeit hunkering under garbage. Read on...

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Oscars 2017: The Academy Makes History — Chaz Ebert comments (Exclusive)

oscar logoThe Oscars continue to be on my “must see” list and this year’s 89th edition was not only immensely enjoyable, but historic for many reasons. It was the first time in history that an African-American director won for Best Picture; it was the first win for Supporting Actor for a Muslim; it was the first win for a picture about someone in the LGBTQ community, and the first Best Foreign Film win for someone who was not there in protest of a travel ban instituted by the President of the United States. Sometimes it is difficult to remember from year to year who won Best Picture, but the “Moonlight” – “La La Land” flub will forever be in our collective memories. Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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Oscars 2017: We Have a New Hollywood Hero — Jeanne Wolf comments (Exclusive)

oscar logoWhile the people in the audience were gasping with surprise, Jordan Horowitz — as if to assure them this wasn’t fake news — held up the card just pulled from the correct award envelope. “I’m going to be really thrilled to hand this to my friends from ‘Moonlight,’ ” he said. Horowitz wasn’t just a gracious loser; he became the closest thing the Oscars can get to a folk hero.” Read more>>

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OSCARS 2017 Predictions — Susan Granger

oscar logoEvery film year acts as a mirror & reflects the tenor of the times. When the Oscars began in 1929 to celebrate the motion picture industry, the winner was William Wellman’s anti-war “Wings.” The subsequent Depression years celebrated character studies like “Grand Hotel,” “The Great Ziegfeld” and “Rebecca.” After the turmoil of Kennedy’s assassination, the Academy chose light-hearted fare like “Tom Jones,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Oliver!” And in 2000, the last time a Republican won the White House, after losing the popular vote, “Gladiator” won the Oscar. Read more on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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FIFTY SHADES DARKER — Review by Susan Granger

When we last saw Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson), she’d brusquely walked out on domineering Seattle billionaire Christian Grey (scruffy Jamie Dornan) after he not only took her virginity but turned her into his sex slave. Three weeks later, she has a job as an assistant to the editor in a publishing house. But when Christian buys an entire art exhibit of her photos, gullible Ana returns to his bedroom – with a “Chronicles of Riddick” poster on the wall – and his kinky Red Room (a.k.a. dungeon), which has been sensuously redecorated. Their arrangement is renegotiated and, this time, he promises: no pain – unless you count nipple clamps. Read on…

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DON’T KNOCK TWICE — Review by Liz Whittemore

dont knock twice posterThe man with a hook for a hand, Bloody Mary, Slenderman — why are we so hooked on urban legends? Is it to scare ourselves silly? Or, perhaps it’s to see terror rise in someone else. We should know better than to test fate at this point, but we don’t. In the new horror film, Don’t Knock Twice, a troubled young girl wrangles her estranged mother into fighting a battle they may not be able to win.,even though they’re fighting together against evil instead of fighting each other. Read the full review on I SCREAM YOU SCREAM.

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Feb 3 – 10: I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

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Raoul Peck’s impeccable and rigorous film I Am Not Your Negro comes at a moment when cinema is creating new conversations about race. Ava DuVernay’s 13TH, Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight, Denzel Washington’s Fences, Hidden Figures, and Loving – all contend in different ways with oppression, prejudice, and racial hatred. Read On… 

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A DOG’S PURPOSE — Review by Martha K. Baker

Yes, the dogs are cute, and, yes, the dogs’ boys are cute. Yes, dogs were coerced to enter freezing cold, roiling water for a scene. And, yes, “A Dog’s Purpose” avoids the tear-jerker aspect by sidesteping the problem with dead dogs in a film by having this one reincarnated. The dog’s name is Bailey. His boy Ethan convinces Mom, who convinces mean, drunken dad that the boy needs a dog. Read on…

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PATRIOTS DAY – Review by Susan Granger

Chronicling the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and its intense aftermath, this is a heavy-handed, by-the-numbers action-thriller about how a community responded to an act of terror. Assigned to duty on the finish line, feisty Police Sgt. Jimmy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) has a sore knee so he phones his wife (Michelle Monaghan) to bring him his knee brace. Meanwhile, two Muslim rebels, Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) Tsarnaev, are calmly making nail-filled bombs and loading them into their backpacks. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, January 13 – January 20, 2017: 13TH

13Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13TH was the first nonfiction film to open the New York Film Festival. The film has gone on to garner numerous prizes and is currently shortlisted for the Academy Awards.

The 13th amendment provides a point of departure, but the film is far more than investigation of mass incarceration in the US. It is a history lesson, a cinema essay and cogent and irrefutable indictment of the economic and cultural policies that are the enduring legacy of slavery. Read on…

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AWFJ Welcomes New Members for 2017

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists receives applications for membership throughout the year, and invites several applicants to join the organization at the beginning of each year. For 2017, we have invited eight exceptional, enthusiastic and dedicated film journalists to become AWFJ members. We Welcome them to the organization and look forward to collaborating with them on AWFJ projects that will advance the cause of gender parity and diversity on screen, behind the lens and in film media and journalism. To meet our new members, read on…

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MOONLIGHT Tops AWFJ EDA Award Winners 2016

moonlight-posterThe women of AWFJ have voted!

Moonlight is the big winner in this year’s tenth annual AWFJ EDA Awards, garnering awards in seven categories. AWFJ voters show love for esteemed director/activist Ava DuVernay with three EDAs. Manchester By The Sea won two. EDAs went to a diverse array of talents in 13 additional categories, including Bravest Performance, Actress Most in Need of a New Agent and the coveted AWFJ Hall of Shame Award. Read on…

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, December 19 – 23, 2016: JULIETA – by Dorothy Woodend

julieta_poster-copyPedro Almódovar’s 20th feature film Julieta is an adaptation of three Alice Munro stories. At first glance, the Spanish auteur and the Canadian writer wouldn’t appear to have anything in common. But they both share a dedication (perhaps obsession) to detailing the secret lives of women. Curiously enough, they are also united by an attraction to the more lurid, preposterous, and occasionally downright cruel twists of fate. Read on…

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2016 AWFJ EDA Award Nominees

The Alliance of Women Film Journalists is pleased to announce the nominees for the 2016 AWFJ EDA Awards. In our 10th annual awards season, we present EDA Awards in 25 categories divided into three sections, the BEST OF AWARDS, FEMALE FOCUS AWARDS AND EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS. Nominees in each category are determined by AWFJ members who submit nominating ballots. There are currently 76 voting AWFJ members. The full membership list is accessible here. And the 2016 nominees are:

These awards are presented to women and/or men without gender consideration.

Best Film

Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Barry Jenkins – Moonlight
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
David Mackenzie – Hell or High Water
Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Best Screenplay, Original

20th Century Women
– Mike Mills
Hail Caesar – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Hell or High Water – Taylor Sheridan
La La Land – Damien Chazelle
Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan

Best Screenplay, Adapted

Arrival – Eric Heisserer
Lion – Luke Davies
Love & Friendship – Whit Stillman
Moonlight – Barry Jenkins
Nocturnal Animals –Tom Ford

Best Documentary

13th – Ava DuVernay
Gleason – Clay Tweel
I Am Not Your Negro – Raoul Peck
OJ Made in America – Ezra Edelman
Weiner – Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegma

Best Animated Film

Finding Dory
– Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
Kubo and the Two Strings- Travis Knight
Moana – Ron Clements, Don Hall, John Musker, Chris Williams
Zootopia – Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush

Best Actress

Amy Adams – Arrival
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis – Fences
Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Octavia Spemcer-Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Best Actor

Casey Affleck – Manchester By The Sea
Joel Edgerton – Loving
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Tom Hanks – Sully
Denzel Washington – Fences

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Ben Foster – Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges – Manchester By the Sea
Michael Shannon- Nocturnal Animals

Best Ensemble Cast – Casting Director

20th Century Women – Mark Bennett and Laura Rosenthal
Hail Caesar – Ellen Chenoweth
Hell or High Water – Jo Edna Boldin and Richard Hicks
Manchester by the Sea – Douglas Aibel
Moonlight – Yesi Ramirez

Best Cinematography

Arrival – Bradford Young
Hell or High Water – Giles Nuttgens
La La Land – Linus Sandgren
Manchester by The Sea – Jody Lee Lipes
Moonlight – James Laxton

Best Editing

Arrival – Joe Walker
I Am Not Your Negro — Alexandra Strauss
La La Land – Tom Cross
Manchester By The Sea – Jennifer Lame
Moonlight – Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders

Best Non-English-Language Film

– Paul Verhoeven, France
Fire At Sea – Gianfranco Rosi, Italy
The Handmaiden – Chan-Wook Park, South Korea
Julieta – Pedro Almodovar. Spain
Toni Erdmann – Maren Ede, Germany

These awards honor WOMEN only.

Best Woman Director

Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Ava DuVernay -13th
Rebecca Miller – Maggie’s Plan
Mira Nair – Queen of Katwe
Kelly Reichardt – Certain Women

Best Woman Screenwriter

Andrea Arnold – American Honey
Rebecca Miller – Maggie’s Plan
Kelly Reichardt – Certain Women
Lorene Scafaria – The Meddler
Laura Terruso – Hello, My Name is Doris

Best Animated Female

Dory in Finding Dory –Ellen DeGeneres
Judy in Zootopia – Ginnifer Goodwin
Moana in Moana – Auli’i Cravalho

Best Breakthrough Performance

Sasha Lane – American Honey
Janelle Monai – Moonlight and Hidden Figures
Madina Nalwanga – Queen of Katwe
Ruth Negga – Loving

Outstanding Achievement by A Woman in The Film Industry

Ava DuVernay – For 13th and raising awareness about the need for diversity and gender equality in Hollywood.

Anne Hubbell and Amy Hobby for establishing Tangerine Entertainment’s Juice Fund to support female filmmakers.

Mynette Louie, President of Gamechanger Films, which finances narrative films directed by women.

April Reign for creating and mobilizing the #OscarsSoWhite campaign.


Actress Defying Age and Ageism

Anette Bening – 20th Century Women
Viola Davis – Fences
Sally Field – Hello, My Name is Doris
Isabelle Huppert – Elle and Things to Come
Helen Mirren – Eye in the Sky

Most Egregious Age Difference Between The Lead and The Love Interest Award

Dirty Grandpa – Robert De Niro (b. 1943) and Aubrey Plaza (b. 1984)
Indepencence Day Resurgence – Charlotte Gainsbourg (b 1971) and Jeff Goldblum (b 1952)
Mechanic Resurrection – Jason Statham (b. 1967) and Jessica Aba (b. 1981)
Rules Don’t Apply – Warren Beatty (b. 1937) and Lily Collins (b. 1989)

Actress Most in Need Of A New Agent

Jennifer Aniston – Mother’s Day and Office Christmas Party
Melissa McCarthy – The Boss and Ghostbusters
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad and Tarzan
Julia Roberts – Mother’s Day
Shailene Woodley – Divergent Series

Bravest Performance

Jessica Chastain – Ms. Sloane
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Sasha Lane – American Honey
Ruth Negga – Loving

Remake or Sequel That Shouldn’t Have Been Made

Ben Hur
Independence Day Resurgence
The Magnificent Seven
My Big Fat Greek Wedding

AWFJ Hall of Shame Award

Sharon Maguire and Renee Zellwegger for Bridget Jones’s Baby
Nicholas Winding Refn and Elle Fanning for The Neon Demon
David Ayer and Margot Robbie for Suicide Squad
David E. Talbert and Mo’Nique for Almost Christmas

Read the 2016 AWFJ EDA Awards Winners List
Read about 2016 AWFJ EDA Awards in the News
Read more about the Alliance of Women Film Journalists
Read more about the AWFJ EDA Awards
Read the AWFJ Membership List

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