DEN OF THIEVES — Review by Susan Granger

Opening with the (unverified) data that Los Angeles is “the bank robbery capital of the world,” there’s also the alarming alert that a heist occurs every 48 minutes. At the Major Crimes unit of the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien (Gerard Butler) is obsessed with these statistics and determined to catch recently paroled Ray Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber), whose band of former Marines-turned-bank robbers, known as “The Outlaws,” are planning to rob the downtown branch of the Federal Reserve for $30 million in unmarked bills. Continue reading...

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FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL — Review by Diane Carson

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool finds love and compassion triumphing. Films seldom candidly portray the last days of once glamorous, sultry actresses. Admirers prefer to revisit their triumphant performances in which these women command screens with captivating energy and irresistible appeal. Kudos then to Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, an exception that dramatizes the physical and psychological challenges faced by 1940s/1950s Hollywood star Gloria Grahame in her final months. Continue reading…

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From AWFJ’s Archives: MaryAnn Johanson calls out Hollywood Gender Issues on April 8, 2010

AWFJ has been calling attention to gender parity issues and the need for better representation of women in cinema since before these subjects began trending. Read what MaryAnn Johanson wrote about the issues in 2010: “WHAT’S A GIRL TO DO? Oh, there’s lot of advice in the offing. Does anyone fret so much over male movie stars and the course of their careers and the ups and downs of their romances with costars the way that Jennifer Aniston and other female movie stars come in for?” Plus: commentary on Lynda Obst’s surprising suggestion that lady filmmakers need to shut up and count their blessings, the male-centric nature of concern-trolling, and more. Continue reading…

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MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURSE — Review by Susan Granger

In this epic finale to the YA trilogy, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) and his buddies have survived a perilous dash through a mysterious labyrinth called The Glade and subsequent trek through a harsh desert wasteland, overseen by a quasi-governmental agency called WCKD (World in Catastrophe: Killerzone Experiment Dept.). Continue reading…

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THAT’S NOT ME — Review by Cate Marquis

In the Australian comedy, That’s Not Me, Alice Foulcher plays Polly, a struggling actor in Melbourne whose life is turned upside down when her twin sister Amy, also an actor, sudden launches into international fame. Ironically, the role that gave Amy the exposure she needed to win a part in a big movie was a part in a soap opera that Polly had turned down. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 2, 2018: A FANTASTIC WOMAN

motw logo 1-35Chile’s Oscar-nominated “A Fantastic Woman” is a modern twist on the kind of Douglas Sirk or Joan Crawford movies of the 1950’s about women in torment. Those were stories of women forced to suffer indignities but who never lost their own dignity and glamour. In the mid-century, “the problem that has no name” described by Betty Friedan had not yet led to the women’s movement, and women in film and in real life often felt invisible, as though all women cared about was keeping the house clean and the children happy. In this film, our heroine is a trans woman named Marina, played by a trans actress, Daniela Vega. The story is about her struggle to be seen for who she is and for all that she is. Continue reading…

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SPOTLIGHT February 2018: Daniela Vega, Star of A FANTASTIC WOMAN, Chile’s Oscar Contender

daniela vega head glamawfjspotlightsmallsmallTrailblazers whose groundbreaking accomplishments change the world, clearing the way for those who follow in their footsteps, are often reluctant to draw attention to themselves. Their motivation is simply to be allowed to be themselves. So it is with Daniela Vega, the first openly transgender actress and model in Chile, and star of the Oscar-nominated A Fantastic Woman. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMAN: 90th Oscar Noms Mark Milestones for Women and Diversity — Brandy McDonnell reports

In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, #MeToo and a cavalcade of sexual misconduct scandals brought to light after explosive investigative reports about Harvey Weinstein, the 2018 Oscar nominations marked several milestones for women, African-Americans and transgender people making movies. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMAN.

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A FANTASTIC WOMAN — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

As an ardent admirer of Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio’s Gloria, about a mousy 50-ish divorcee and office worker who yearns for romance but only on her own terms, it was no surprise that his A Fantastic Woman similarly managed to take my breath away while viewing the world through female eyes. Continue reading…

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THE INSULT — Review by Diane Carson

The Insult tracks a personal and political confrontation. The personal is political and the political gets intensely personal quickly in director Ziad Doueiri’s The Insult. What begins as a minor problem escalates into legal confrontations with international reverberations. At first glance, it seems such a simple issue to resolve. Instead, it quickly becomes apparent that in the charged atmosphere of Beirut, Lebanon, nothing is truly innocuous. Continue reading…

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

godard and soundWould you like to take your brain for a walk out of its accustomed rut? If you like the sound of that, you might consider picking up Albertine Fox‘s Godard and Sound. It’s a treat. Beautifully written, meticulously researched, thoughtfully composed, it asks us to think in a new way about the role of anything that vibrates the air to produce noise in cinema, and also about the role of the audience. Fox’s book is a springboard into the films of Jean-Luc Godard, his aesthetics of sound, and a new type of aural realism. Although she says little about his most famous films, À Bout de Souffle, AKA Breathless (1960), for example, and much about films with far less name recognition, for example Prénom Carmen (1983), AKA First Name, Carmen, you don’t have to be a Godard scholar to appreciate its excellence. In fact, it might either whet your appetite to look into the Godard films you haven’t seen or to apply some of Fox’s thoughts to films with interesting sound designs that you already know very well. Continue reading…

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A FANTASTIC WOMAN — Review by Cate Marquis

A Fantastic Woman begins on a romantic note, with an older man listening to a singer with a band. In high heels, short skirt, and a golden voice, Marina Vidal is pretty but there is something a bit different her. The couple go out, then back home. Late at night, the man awakens and doesn’t feel well. Despite a desperate rush to the hospital, Marina loses her beloved to an aneurysm. In her grief, Marina faces a new problem, her older lover Orlando’s (Francisco Reyes) disapproving family, and then police who seem overly interested in her gender. Continue reading…

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HAPPY END — Review by Diane Carson

The cerebral Austrian director Michael Haneke refuses to explain his grim, astute snapshots of scrutinized lives: the elderly couple in his Oscar-winning Amour, the dystopian pre-WWI German village in The White Ribbon, or the French couple receiving frightening anonymous tapes in Caché. It comes, then, as no surprise, that the ironically titled Happy End captures a troubled, bourgeois French family. Continue reading…

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SAG Awards THREE BILLBOARDS, PGA Taps SHAPE OF WATER — Michelle Hannett reports

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE OF EBBING, MISSOURIThe dark comedic drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was the big winner of the night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, taking home the award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor, at this year’s ceremony on January 21. Continue reading on AWARDS INTELLIGENCER

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 26, 2018: MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER

motw logo 1-35Take a lonely British child, add an unexpected discovery and a previously unknown world of magic — including a special school run by powerful wizards — and what do you have? Nope, not Harry Potter. It’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s lovely anime take on prolific British author Mary Stewart’s 1971 children’s novel The Little Broomstick. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Blanchett Chairs Cannes Jury, Women Helmers Underrepresented, Wahlberg Donates to ‘Time’s Up’ — Brandy McDonnell reports

Last year, out of the 109 people who directed the top 100 movies, just eight were women, according to the latest stats from Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That’s 4.3 percent! Following the pay disparity controversy between earnings for Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams, Wahlberg is donating all of his take from the ‘All the Money in the World’ reshoot to the Time’s Up equality initiative. And, brava! Cate Blanchett is set to head this year’s Cannes jury. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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Filmmaker Alice Foulcher on Collaboration, Multitasking, Fame and THAT’S NOT ME — Interview by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Exclusive)

alice foulcher white shirtThat’s Not Me, the Australian independent comedy that premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and won audiences awards at both the Sydney Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival, was made with an extraordinarily low budget of $45,000 by filmmakers Gregory Erdstein and Alice Foulcher. Receiving rave reviews from The Guardian and Time Out, the self-funded comedy seems to exemplify a trend in Australian cinema, where creatives are finding alternate ways of making movies outside the orthodox framework of notoriously genre-shy formal, institutionalized funding bodies. The local and international acclaim for Foulcher and Erdstein’s breakout film promises the creative couple a bright future, and Foulcher here takes time to discuss the background of That’s Not Me, her feelings about the film industry in Australia, collaboration, fame and future work. Continue reading…

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WOMEN ROCK THE 23RD CRITICS CHOICE AWARDS — Sarah Knight Adamson reports

Critics-Choice-Awards-logo-620x360What a joy to attend the Critics Choice Awards on the heels of the female-driven Golden Globes Awards earlier in the week, as women across the globe were inspired by Oprah’s Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech. The mood Thursday evening, January 11, was exciting to say the least. Everywhere you looked, women−whether celebrities or critics—were beaming. Yes, the room was euphoric in celebration, as finally our voices are being heard. Continue reading…

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THE INSULT — Review by Susan Granger

Ziad Doueiri’s intriguing political drama is Lebanon’s submission for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film and winner of the 2017 Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor Award (Kamel El Basha). In contemporary Beirut, there’s always an undercurrent of tension between Lebanese Christians and Palestinian Muslim refugees. Which is why a casual insult is blown ‘way out of proportion. Continue reading…

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MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER — Review by Cate Marquis

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is a gorgeously animated Japanese film about a red-headed English girl named Mary who follows a black cat into the forest behind her great aunt’s country house, and finds herself transported into a magical world of witches. Continue reading…

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PROUD MARY — Review by Susan Granger

Everything old is new again! In the 1970s, the ethnic subgenre of action thrillers, starring black actors, was known as “Blaxpolitation” films. Exemplified by “Shaft,” “Cleopatra Jones” and “Foxy Brown,” they were originally aimed an urban audiences, but their appeal spread. Now – with the rise of fighting female characters – Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures,” TV’s “Empire”) takes the titular role as a ruthless African-American assassin who feels guilty about one particular hit for the Boston Mob. Continue reading…

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THE FINAL YEAR — Review by Martha K. Baker

It’s doubtful that anyone sitting around the fire at Trump Camp will give “The Final Year” a moment’s notice, but those who were warmed by the fires kindled in President Barack Obama’s Administration will be fired up by this well-made documentary of the work that it takes to negotiate with foreign powers. Continue reading…

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PHANTOM THREAD — Review by Susan Granger

Daniel Day-Lewis is one of our finest actors; each performance is precisely researched, resulting in absolute authenticity. Here, he plays eccentric, self-absorbed Reynolds Woodcock, a discerning British fashion designer. In the 1950s, lavish haute couture was revered by rich women and royalty, along with the couturiers. Impeccably groomed, imperious Woodcock demands that his elegant London townhouse home/office revolves around his craftsmanship and whims. Breakfast is silent: no crunching toast or idle chatter. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 19, 2018: THE SHAPE OF WATER

motw logo 1-35As beautiful to look at as it is entertaining to watch, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is a rich, textured romance/fairy tale about two misfits who find unexpected kinship in a secret government lab during the Cold War. It’s unlike any other film that hit the big screen in 2017, which is one of the reasons why AWFJ members voted to give it the EDA Award for Best Film of the year. Continue reading….

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Oprah Commands Golden Globes, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI get top billing, while THE SHAPE OF WATER dominates Critics Choice and AWFJ EDA Awards — Brandy McDonnell reports

Oprah Winfrey drew repeated ovations from the Hollywood honchos assembled for the Golden Globes, as issued a warning — not once, but three times — to powerful men who abuse women: “Their time is up!” And this year’s big Golden Globe winner is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But voting members of the Broadcast Film Critics Association/Broadcast Television Journalists Association and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists picked The Shape of Water and their big winner. Continue reading on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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