JANE – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

janedocumentary.P In 1960, paleontologist Louis Leakey did something remarkable: He hired a 26-year-old secretary, untrained in the sciences and without a university degree in any field at all, to go into the wilds of Tanzania and study chimps. Jane Goodall is now, at age 83, one of the most renowned figures in primatology, and arguably one of the most famous scientists living today (maybe to ever have lived), one of those rare superstars of science whose work has captured the imagination of the general public. But at the time, she knew nothing about wild chimps. The thing is, though: no one else did either. No one else had ever done what Leakey trusted her to do, to simply observe them in their natural habitat over long stretches of time in order to learn about their lives and their culture. Continue reading…

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WONDER — Review by Susan Granger

Are Hollywood’s title-titans trying to confuse us? “Wonder Woman” was the hit of the summer. Last week, I highly recommended Todd Haynes’ imaginative “Wonderstruck.” Now, I’m touting the family-oriented drama “Wonder”…and soon we’ll get Woody Allen’s new “Wonder Wheel.”
“Wonder” begins as August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) earnestly explains, “I’m not an ordinary 10 year-old kid.” He was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic mutation that causes severe facial deformities. Continue reading…

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LAST FLAG FLYING — Review by Martha K. Baker

Something — memories of esprit de corps, desperation, loneliness — draws Doc Shepherd to find his old Marine buddies on the Internet. He has an agenda: he wants them to go with him to bury his son, also a Marine but killed in another war. Doc finds Sal, running a failing bar. Continue reading…

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JUSTICE LEAGUE — Review by Susan Granger

When William Shakespeare wrote, “It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing,” he could have been summarizing “Justice League.” Or, let’s put it this way: How is it that when you’re given everything, you come away with nothing?” Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Iran’s Female-Directed Oscar Pick, Plus Portman, Bigelow, Winslet and more — Brandy McDonnell Reports

Natalie Portman wins Israel’s Genesis Prize, Iran makes first Academy Award submission directed by a woman, Sundance Selects acquires Rachel Dretzin’s documentary ‘Far from the Tree,’ and Kathryn Bigelow, Kate Winslet and more are honored by SAG-AFTRA Foundation. Read more on THE WEEK IN WOMEN…

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EDA Awards @ Whistler Film Festival: Feature and Shorts Nominees Announced — Jennifer Merin reports

whistler logo 2017The Alliance of Women Film Journalists and Whistler Film Festival are proud to announce the nominees for two AWFJ EDA Awards to be presented at the 2017 festival. This is the fourth consecutive year of the partnership between Whistler Film Festival and AWFJ to honor films directed by women. Whistler Film Festival nominates films for consideration. Juries are comprised of AWFJ members. The winners will be announced and the EDA Awards will be presented at the festival’s awards ceremony on December 3, 2017. Continue reading…

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BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY — Review by Nikki Baughan

BOMBSHELL POSTERHedy Lamarr, the inventor… who knew?! What’s clear from Alexandra Dean’s engaging and eye-opening documentary is that everyone should be aware that the stunning actress from Hollywood’s golden age was also a keen scientist, responsible for the discovery of frequency hopping that first assisted military radiographers and is now a key component in everything from smartphones to WiFi. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 24: BOMBSHELL – THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

motw logo 1-35“Bombshell” is the perfect title for a documentary about Hedy Lamarr. Not only was Lamarr a renowned Hollywood screen siren (aka a “bombshell”), but she also helped invent signal-hopping radio-based technology that was used to guide Allied torpedoes (literal bombshells) during World War II, a system whose DNA can be seen in the Bluetooth and WiFi systems we all rely on today. Continue reading…

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WONDER — Review by Martha K. Baker

Wonder offers a free cry — nothing wrong with that. A small boy speaks: “I know I am not an ordinary 10-year-old kid.” He is not. August (“Auggie”) was born with mandibulofacial dystosis, or “Treacher Collins syndrome.” He has been home-schooled until now, when his parents decide it’s time for school-school. Wonder covers Auggie’s year in fifth grade. Continue reading…

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LBJ –Review by Susan Granger

There’s no question that Lyndon Baines Johnson had his eye on the White House during his tenure as Senate Majority Leader. But being a good poker player and canny pragmatist, he knew when to ‘hold ‘em’ and when to ‘fold ‘em,’ which is why he agreed to run as John F. Kennedy’s Vice-President after failing to get the 1960 Democratic nomination for himself. Continue reading…

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BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY –Review by Cate Marquis

If you use WiFi or GPS, you owe something to Hedy Lamarr. BOMBSHELL: HEDY LAMARR tells the astonishing story of Hedy Lamarr, the beautiful Hollywood star of the 1930s and 1940s who also invented frequency hopping, the idea behind the technology used GPS and Bluetooth. Filled with fascinating details about the life of this most unusual person, gifted with both good looks and brains, yet struggled to find recognition for the latter. Throughout the film, one is struck by how different her life might have been in another era, when she could have more easily pursued her real dream, of being an inventor. One is also struck by how her beauty was sometimes a barrier to her real ambitions. Continue reading…

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MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE — Review by Susan Granger

The takeaway thought from this less-than-memorable biopic is that one highly-principled person can make a big difference…and many Americans are hoping that another steps forth soon. The whistleblower is Mark Felt (Liam Neeson), who for many years was a trusted confidante and second-in-line to the F.B.I.’s Director J. Edgar Hoover. Continue reading…

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NOVITIATE — Review by Martha K. Baker

Director Margaret Betts, in her debut feature film, focuses on a novice, who has just entered the order, and a reverend mother, who has been in the convent for 40 years, stereotypes, yes. The young woman and the elder have a strong connection to the Roman Catholic church. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 17: THE BREADWINNER

motw logo 1-35The Breadwinner is a powerful, gorgeously animated film about Parvana, a remarkable little girl caught in untenable circumstances in Taliban-controlled Kabul, Afghanistan. From the studio and filmmakers who previously gave us The Secret of Kells and other animated gems, “The Breadwinner” isn’t your typical mainstream “cartoon” fare. Based on the same-named novel by Deborah Ellis (who has co-screenwriting credit with Anita Doron), director Nora Twomey’s remarkable film tells a deep, thoughtful story replete with elements of both pain and joy, despair and hope. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Varda and Tomlin Honored, Nowlin Plays PTSD Woman Vet, Sexual Harassment Help Line Set

Legendary French filmmaker Agnes Varda, now age 89, receives an honorary Oscar in Hollywood, while The Society of Voice Arts & Sciences has bestowed upon Lily Tomlin the Voice Arts Icon Award, presented at New York’s Lincoln Center. Actress Kate Nowlin weighs in on what it’s like to play a war veteran suffering from PTSD in Blood Stripe, which she also co-scripted. The tsunami of stories out sexual harassment continues to sweep through the entertainment industry and Women in Film Los Angeles is launching a sexual harassment hot line to help those who have suffered unwanted sexual attention for decades to overcome the trauma. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN.

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Claire Ferguson Talks Storytelling, Trauma and Team Work in DESTINATION UNKNOWN –Jennifer Merin interviews

Claire FergusonIn Destination Unknown, British documentary filmmaker Claire Ferguson’s interviews with Holocaust survivors captures on film the most intimate and painful memories of traumas experienced in the Nazi death camps and the ongoing suffering they have caused throughout the victims’ lives. The survivors’ vivid descriptions are supported by archival footage. The combination of current testimony from surviving elders with images of what they lived through is absolutely devastating. Destination Unknown is an important addition to the canon of Holocaust films. Read what filmmaker Claire Ferguson has to say about making the film and the responsibilities of documentary filmmakers. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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MUDBOUND — Review by Esther Iverem

The human, under surveillance and under American Southern totalitarianism, is the recurrent theme in the new, compelling Netflix feature “Mudbound.” Director-producer Dee Rees adapts Hillary Jordan’s World War II-era novel with the appropriate amount of claustrophobia and stricture befitting Jim Crow Mississippi. Continue reading…

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Guest Post: Filmmaker Chanda Chevannes on Making UNFRACTURED, Activism and Refusing to ‘Play the Part’ (Exclusive)

chandra head smallOn a chilly November evening in 2014, I was sitting in a rental car outside the county jail in Watkins Glen, New York. My video camera was turned on, and resting in my lap. I had already set my white balance, exposure, and focal length. And since I had nothing to do but sit in the dark parking lot and wait, a steady stream of thoughts began to run through my mind. Or, more accurately, one thought raced around in there: Why am I doing this to myself? In the four years it took me to make my new feature documentary, I asked myself that question over and over again. Continue Reading on THE FEMALE GAZE.

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THOR: RAGNAROK — Review by Susan Granger

For comic-book fans, Marvel’s hammer-throwing hero is back – in the BEST Thor movie yet! ince “Ragnarok” means apocalypse, the story picks up where the last one left off: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder, is trying to save Asgard, his home planet, only to discover that he and his treacherous brother Loki (Tim Hiddleston) have a power-hungry older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), Goddess of Death. Continue reading…

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MUDBOUND — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

rees mudbound posterMudbound begins with digging. The screen is black, the sound unmistakable. The scene that emerges takes place at night: two brothers are digging a grave for their father. A storm is coming, so Henry (Jason Clarke) and Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) are in a hurry. “We ain’t gonna make it,” mutters Jamie. Henry insists that they will, that they have to. “That was my brother Henry,” narrates Jamie. “Absolutely certain whatever he wanted to happen would. Certain his little brother would never betray him.” Continue reading…

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MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS — Review by Martha K. Baker

Seeing the magnificent cast list may draw you in. Enjoying a classic mystery, even when you know who dun it, may draw you in. But after watching “Murder on the Orient Express,” you may feel discounted, for the Kenneth Branagh production has all the oomph of an airless whoopee cushion. But ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ gives new depth to ‘meh!’ Continue reading…

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WALKING OUT — Review by Susan Granger

Montana-born filmmakers Alex and Andrew Smith craft this father/son saga as a tense survival story, reminiscent of “The Revenant” and “Mountain Men.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 10: MUDBOUND

motw logo 1-35Telling the intertwining stories of two families — one white, one black — living on the same piece of rural Mississippi farmland in the 1940s, Dee ReesMudbound blends strong performances, notable cinematography, and heartbreaking human drama. It’s clear things are going to get grim from the opening sequence, in which adult brothers Henry and Jamie McAllan (played by Jason Clarke and Garrett Hedlund, respectively) try to bury their father despite the onslaught of a torrential downpour, which leaves both men shaken and covered in mud. Continue reading…

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THE WEEK IN WOMEN: Jolie and Loung Ung Honored, WONDER WOMAN Top Grosser, The Guardian’s Women’s Cinema Canon

Filmmaker, actor and activist Angelina Jolie and author-activist Loung Ung will receive the Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award at the 21st Annual Hollywood Film Awards for their critically-acclaimed film “First They Killed My Father,” which is also Cambodia’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. ‘Wonder Woman’ sill soars at the box office to become the top-grossing superhero origin film. Writer-directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s “Loving Vincent” sets new standards in animation art. The Guardian proposes a new cinematic canon chosen by women. Note that the members of the Alliance of Women Film Journalist created a Top 100 Films list a decade ago in response to AFI’s heavily male dominated Top 100 Films List. And the beat goes on. Read details on THE WEEK IN WOMEN...

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A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS –Review by Martha K. Baker

What made “Bad Moms” delightful was the attention to truth: those moms weren’t bad so much as they were exhausted. The moms in the sequel are shown to be exhausted, too, but by trying to make Christmas perfect — the perfect tree, perfect gifts, perfect parties. They are their mothers’ daughters. Continue reading…

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