THE WEEK IN WOMEN: A Guide to Seeing This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Films — Brandy McDonnell reports

oscars goldThe 90th Oscars will be handed out Sunday at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, and will be broadcast live on ABC at 8 p.m. Eastern / 7 p.m. Central / 5 p.m. Pacific Time. There’s still time to catch up on seeing the nominees in theaters and on smaller screens before the big event. See our guide on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You may also be interested in reading about AWFJ’s 2018 Oscar Predictions.

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OH LUCY! — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

“Open your mouth a little bit more. Let out more sound.” At her first English lesson, Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) learns from her teacher, John (Josh Hartnett), that to speak “American English,” “You need to be lazy, lazy and relaxed, let it go.” The one-on-one class proceeds: John misspells her name on his whiteboard, then gives her an American name, Lucy, before he advises, “Relax, don’t be nervous. Looks like you need a hug.” During the embrace, Setsuko is visibly uncomfortable, but he takes no notice. “What can I say”? he smiles, “I’m a hugger.” Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Fewer Female Protagonists in 2017 — Brandy McDonnell reports

Dismal stats reported in this year’s edition of the annual It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World report, released on February 22 by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, show that the number of female protagonists in Hollywood’s top grossing 100 films dropped during 2017, despite the blockbuster success of Wonder Woman and other femme-led films. Just how bad is it? Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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OH LUCY! — Review by Cate Marquis

oh lucy posterDirector Atsuko Hirayanagi makes a strong feature film debut with “Oh Lucy,” a Japanese dramedy with a darker, absurdist undercurrent. Hirayanagi’s film is a tale of a middle-aged single Japanese women gaining a new view of life after signing up for a course to learn English that requires her to don a curly blonde wig and adopt a new identity as “Lucy.” Hirayanagi focuses on a type of character often overlooked and offers her unexpected second chance in life. The director also peppers her film with little absurdities alternating with some moments of bracing darkness. Continue reading…

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THE 15:17 to PARIS — Review by Susan Granger

On Thalys passenger train 9364 bound for Paris on August 21, 2015, three brave Americans intercepted a terrorist who was determined to kill as many people as possible. Their spontaneous heroism inspired Clint Eastwood not only to film their story but also to cast Spencer Stone, Alex Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler as themselves. Continue reading…

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GAME NIGHT — Review by Martha K. Baker

‘Game Night’ proves to be fitfully funny. This bombette is being sold as produced by the people who brought you “Horrible Bosses.” Now, that was funny, right there. And “Game Night” is funny, too — fitfully rather than fluidly. However, if belly laughs are as medicinal as claimed, then the gut-busters provided by “Game Night” balance the other 65 minutes of flat-lining. Continue reading…

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NOSTALGIA — Review by Martha K. Baker

For all its sadness and despair, “Nostalgia” fits the nation’s mood of hopelessness and grief. “Nostalgia” is a downer, like a lot of life itself. There is a lot of life — its clutter, its deaths, its good riddance — in the interlocking stories, told well by a sterling cast. Continue reading…

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EARLY MAN — Review by Susan Granger

With a filmography that includes “Chicken Run,” “Wallace and Gromit” and “Shaun the Sheep,” U.K.-based Aardman Animation specializes in Claymation, a labor-intensive form of stop-motion that uses figures made of clay. Animators pose the figures for each frame – every movement, every gesture – with 24 frames for each second of film. For every shot, the seven-inch-tall silicone figures are bolted into place on cleverly detailed sets that stand about two-feet high. Mouth movements are synched to pre-recorded vocal tracts. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 23, 2018: HALF MAGIC

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Heather Graham’s directorial debut, Half Magic, is completely femme-centric, but it won’t pass the Bechdel Test. Yes, the comedy focuses on three women who have viable careers and who talk to each other frequently — but almost all of their conversation is about men and sex. More specifically, about how to hook up with nicer men and have better sex. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Record-Breaking BLACK PANTHER Proves Inclusion Sells in Cinema — Brandy McDonnell reports

The combined success of the record-breaking, critical acclaim-nabbing and audience-thrilling success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, introducing a black superhero and boasting a largely black cast, and the recent record-breaking, critical acclaim-nabbing and audience-thrilling successWonder Woman, whixh gave female filmgoers a superhero in their own image, should prove to Hollywood that inclusion sells in cinema, but will it bring real change in the making of movies? Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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BLACK PANTHER — Review by Diane Carson

black pantherBlack Panther thrills and inspires. Since the 2014 announcement, eager fans have waited with great anticipation for director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. I won’t bury the lead: the film merits the hype and the record-breaking advance ticket sales. It is terrific in so many ways, enhancing the conventional superhero dichotomy of good and evil with conflicting loyalties in three-dimensional, culturally grounded African characters. The conflict and surprises (no spoilers here) begin in Oakland, California, 1992 on an outdoor basketball court before moving indoors to a small apartment. Continue reading…

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HALF MAGIC — Review by Cate Marquis

Three women with “man troubles” and low self esteem decide to form a team to both make their sex lives better and get what they really want in their love relationships, with a little help from some “magic candles,” in Heather Graham’s female-centric romantic comedy Half Magic. Continue reading…

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BLACK PANTHER — Review by Susan Granger

Exactly a decade after Iron Man launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a powerful, new superhero has arrived – and he’s sensational! The warrior T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is the Prince/protector of the fantastical African nation of Wakanda, an isolated, secretive kingdom that’s rich with Vibranium – the mythic ‘alien’ metal that comprises Captain America’s shield. This invaluable resource has enabled incredible technological advances including magnetic transfers, superconductors, and spaceships. Continue reading…

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THE PARTY — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

THE PARTY POSTER 1“I think it’s going to unfold like the Tea Party, only bigger. It’s not #MeToo. It’s not just sexual harassment. It’s an anti-patriarchy movement. Time’s up on 10,000 years of recorded history. This is coming. This is real.” –Steve Bannon in Michael Lewis, “Has Anyone Seen the President“?

“In the film industry, we are also connected to the rhetoric in the political world — Trump and so on. Things that were unthinkable to say 10 years ago are being said again.” –Sally Potter in Orlando Parfitt, “Berlin Q&A: Sally Potter, ‘The Party‘” Continue reading…

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Godard and Sound: Acoustic Innovation in the Late Films of Jean-Luc Godard — Book Review by Moira Sullivan

Albertine Fox’s Godard and Sound (2017) is an impressive and elaborate study of the use of sound in Jean Luc Godard’s later films beginning in 1979 including his multimedia work. The study builds on the foundation of her doctoral thesis, which investigated the aural properties of film and the field of “audio spectatorship” in film criticism and scholarship. Fox’s interest in the subject developed through an appreciation of minimal music with an ‘acoustic’ echo. Repetitive identical musical patterns played in unison result in an echo, such as the music of Phillip Glass, Brian Eno and Meredith Monk. These echoes are likened to “after images” in paintings with overlapping patterns. There is also a parallel in film. Fox experienced two repetitive loops – the “soundtrack” and “the image” track “moving in parallel motion” in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre Sa Vie (1962), which became the genesis of Godard and Sound. Continue reading…

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DOUBLE LOVER — Review by Erica Abeel

François Ozon’s Double Lover, a departure from his restrained World War I-set Frantz, is an erotic psychological thriller about a onetime model in therapy who ends up with two lovers—who happen to be twins. Double Lover‘s mix of kink, suspense and technical control initially promises a return to such riveting mind-benders as Swimming Pool. Sadly, though, this film, loosely based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, also trafficks in exploitative images of women in the guise of art-film license…Continue reading…

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DOUBLE LOVER — Review by Moira Sullivan

Double Lover is framed with slick art direction in a film about beautiful people who need perversion and assault to make their flawless physiques believable. Neither Cronenberg or Ozon seem to think well about women where double lovers are only double trouble for them. Continue reading…

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From The AWFJ Archive: MoMA’s Sally Potter Retrospective – Jennifer Merin comments

Let’s praise Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) curator Sally Berger for putting together a remarkable and well-deserved retrospective (July 7 to 24) of the films and video of Sally Potter, the brilliant British feminist moviemaker with a genuinely unique and fascinating vision.
Potter‘s films are never easy escapes, and she’s often had mixed reviews, but as director, writer, actress, dancer, choreographer and composer, Potter is a rare entity: the complete cinematic artist. She invites you to profound emotional insights and transports you to uncharted realms of imagination and intellect. Continue reading…

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THE BALLAD OF LEFTY BROWN — Review by Diane Carson

lefty brown posterThe Ballad of Lefty Brown is a retro western of revenge and frontier justice. Announcing lofty intentions in its opening, The Ballad of Lefty Brown begins with an onscreen quotation from Frederick Jackson Turner, influential historian of the American West. He wrote, “The frontier environment is at first too strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes or perish.” The character study that follows highlights that dichotomy: adapt or die. Continue reading…

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50 SHADES FREED — Review by Susan Granger

The final episode of this inexplicably successful, soft-core porn franchise opens with billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) dazzling his bride, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson),with an ostentatious display of his staggering wealth: his jet, his yacht, his chef, etc. Continue reading…

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THE PARTY — Review by Anne Brodie

Sally Potter’s scathing social satire The Party, shot in black and white in three claustrophobic rooms is a gem, and thankfully short given the compression of nerves and tears and emotion. What may be the most unpleasant dinner party of all time brings together a perfectly presentable group of middle class English friends – a politician, artists, a banker, a professor, a realist and a healer. Continue reading…

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12 STRONG — Review by Susan Granger

This contemporary war picture celebrates the brave soldiers who fought against Al Qaeda -without probing too deeply into the political justification or disillusioning aftermath of their heroic efforts. Green Beret Operational Detachment Alpha 595 consists of a 12-member U.S. Special Forces squad sent into mountainous northern Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. Their mission is to take the Taliban stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif within three weeks – before the winter snow hits. Continue reading…

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THE PARTY — Review by Moira Sullivan

THE PARTY POSTERSally Potter’s eighth feature The Party occupies a sitting room, kitchen, garden and bathroom populated by veteran actors Kristin Scott Thomas, Cherry Jones Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer, Timothy Spall and Patricia Clarkson. The skill of the dialogue in this sitting room drama written by the UK independent filmmaker moves the film forward but equally important are ten carefully selected songs that punctuate the gathering. These have significance for each of the scenes and are inseparable from the images. With the exception of a British anthem, the selections are recorded by international artists – arias, ballads, jazz and rhythm and blues, ska, and tango. Continue reading…

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A FANTASTIC WOMAN — Review by Diane Carson

In an early scene in Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, performing on stage, the transgender, sultry nightclub singer Marina flirts with Orlando, her older lover and partner. They return to their apartment, make love and go to sleep before a medical emergency initiates the tragedy Marina will face and the treatment she’ll contend with from Orlando’s family. Continue reading…

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WILDCATS — Review by Courtney Howard

wildcats posterDirector Michael Ritchie’s film WILDCATS should’ve hit at the right time, with more women entering the workforce in the 80’s, but didn’t thanks to a tepid reception from critics and audiences alike. The general response was that it wasn’t as solid as Private Benjamin, Hawn’s career-defining comedy about a privileged trophy wife forced to find her identity in the Army after her husband dies. However, it’s my personal belief that Ritchie’s comedy about a girls-track-coach-turned-inner-city-football-coach – one whose abilities are underestimated by practically everyone – is a far greater, underappreciated, often misunderstood, and wildly feminist gem. Continue reading…

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