MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 16, 2018: THE PARTY

motw logo 1-35Sally Potter’s “The Party” is an atmospheric, rapid-fire dark comedy about a celebratory dinner party where unexpected revelations come as quickly as bon mots. With its sophisticated script and minimalist setting (the whole thing takes place nearly in real time, in just a couple of rooms), “The Party” has the feel of a play adapted for the big screen. The fact that the all-star cast includes powerhouse actresses Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Cherry Jones, and Emily Mortimer — all of whom can dominate a stage with the best of them — underlines that impression. Continue reading…

read more

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…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK February 9: THAT’S NOT ME

motw logo 1-35Alice Foulcher does triple duty in “That’s Not Me,” starring as both aspiring Australian actress Polly and her identical twin sister, Amy (also an actress), as well as co-writing with director Gregory Erdstein. The result is an appealing exploration of ambition, identity, and the whims of showbiz. The movie’s focus is mainly on Polly, who’s wanted to be an actress her whole life and dreams of getting her big break, even while she’s working a day job at a local cinema. Continue reading…

read more

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…

read more

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…

read more

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….

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 12, 2018: THE POST

motw logo 1-35It’s hard to think of a movie with a more timely, important message than “The Post.” Steven Spielberg’s drama tells the story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers in the ’70s, but the film’s scenes of journalists passionately advocating for a free, independent press in a democracy could just as easily be set in today’s world of “fake news” conflict between the media and the government. Continue reading….

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK January 5, 2018 : MOLLY’S GAME

motw logo 1-35In “Molly’s Game,” writer/director Aaron Sorkin introduces us to Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a complicated woman who’s all the more fascinating because she’s real. Smart, resourceful, competitive, driven — Molly succeeds at whatever she puts her mind to. At first, that’s skiing; pushed hard by her demanding father, Larry (Kevin Costner), she becomes an Olympic-level champion who seems destined for gold…until a random accident ends her skiing career for good. continue reading….

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 15: THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR

motw logo 1-35Using the horrific 1944 gang rape of a black woman by white men as a jumping-off point to examine systemic issues of race, class, and power in the United States, Nancy Buirski’s documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor” is stirring and powerful. Like many other 2017 films, including “Detroit,” “Mudbound,” “Strong Island,” and more, “Recy Taylor” makes it abundantly clear that the complicated history and politics of race and gender are more relevant — and frustrating — than ever. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 8: THE TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES

motw logo 1-35In “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” well-manicured lawns, sprawling houses, and groomed beaches can’t prevent family turmoil from wreaking havoc in the life of teenage Medina (Maika Monroe). Yet the melancholy drama, written by Karen Croner, features a particularly strong performance by Jennifer Garner, who plays against type as Sandy, Medina’s neurotic, insecure, emotionally unstable mother. Continue reading...

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 27: THE DANCER

motw logo 1-35Chances are, even people who wouldn’t describe themselves as “into dance” have heard the name Isadora Duncan and know something about her career and tragic death. But what about dancer and performance artist Loie Fuller, the innovator of modern dance who helped propel Duncan to superstardom in the early 20th century? Stephanie Di Giusto’s drama “The Dancer” remedies that by telling the story of Fuller’s complex, fascinating and often-heartbreaking life and career. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 21: 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…

read more

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…

read more

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…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK November 3, 2017: 11/8/16

motw logo 1-35Anticipation. Excitement. Hope. Worry. Fear. Anger. Despair. On November 8, 2016 — election day — tens of millions of Americans felt one, many, or all of those emotions, no matter who they voted for. And the wide-ranging, collaborative documentary “11/8/16″ brings all of those big feelings right back to the forefront as it chronicles a day that many of us wish we could forget (or at least do over) but that history will always remember. Continue reading…

read more

Horror Movies and Kids: A Scary Combination — Betsy Bozdech, Liz Whittemore, Nell Minow, Brandy McDonnell and Jennifer Merin comment

scary movies 4A new CableTV survey about horror movies that’s making the rounds this pre-Halloween week reveals, among other things, that the average age at which the (presumably adult) respondents saw their first horror movie was 7.2 years old. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that today’s kids are in the same boat, we’ve all noticed members of the PG crowd at decidedly R-rated movies — in fact, my 7-year-old daughter’s second-grade classmate recently told her that he’d seen “It.” Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: October 27: NOVITIATE

motw logo 1-35If your idea of life in mid-20th-century convents is all about kindly nuns solving problems like Maria and climbing every mountain, Novitiate will be a real eye-opener. Writer/director Margaret Betts’ first feature-length drama tells the sometimes-bleak story of Cathleen (Margaret Qualley), an earnest young woman from Tennessee who decides to take the veil in the early 1960s, on the eve of the far-reaching Vatican II reforms that would change traditional church life forever. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 13, 2017: TAKE MY NOSE…PLEASE!

motw logo 1-35Any woman who’s ever felt dissatisfied with any aspect of her appearance — so, pretty much every woman — will find something to relate to in “Take My Nose … Please!” Documentarian Joan Kron (directing her first film at the age of 89!) blends her subjects’ personal stories with a broader survey of the media’s impact on female body image to create a film that’s simultaneously provocative and empathetic (as well as frequently laugh-out-loud funny). Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 6, 2017: FACES PLACES

motw logo 1-35Celebrated filmmaker Agnes Varda is no stranger to making films about everyday, relatable people — including herself. FACES PLACES, her collaboration with photographer/artist J.R. (he’s known only by his initials), chronicles the pair’s friendship and partnership while introducing audiences to a wide range of French people, who share their communities and fascinating stories with Varda and J.R. in exchange for powerful, personalized public art installations. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 22 – 29, 2017: BATTLE OF THE SEXES

motw logo 1-35Battle of the Sexes takes its name from the historic 1973 grudge match between tennis superstar Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and former champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). But the movie is about so much more than that singular game, no matter how big that game turned out to be. It’s about acknowledging and accepting who you are, standing up for what you believe, and using your voice to fight for the people who need you. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 15 to 22, 2017: DOLORES

motw logo 1-35It’s a safe bet that many folks, if asked to name someone associated with the United Farm Workers of America union (originally the National Farm Workers Association), would draw a total blank. Some might come up with Cesar Chavez. But very few are likely to mention Dolores Huerta, despite her countless contributions to the UFW beginning in the 1960s and her continuing role as an outspoken intersectional activist who fights for feminism, civil rights, environmentalism, and more. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 8 to 15: STRONG ISLAND

motw logo 1-35Infuriating, fascinating, and deeply emotional, Strong Island is the deeply personal chronicle and commentary by documentary filmmaker Yance Ford about his search for an explanation of and accounting for why the man who killed his brother was never charged with the crime and walked away without any punishment. Yance’s brother, William Ford, a young African-American man, was shot and killed in 1992 by a White auto mechanic after a verbal altercation at the repair shop where the latter worked. William’s death shocked the Ford family and left them devastated. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 1- 8: SCHOOL LIFE

motw logo 1-35

School Life, director Neasa Ní Chianáin’s sweetly pellucid portrait of Headfort School in County Kells, Ireland feels like a sojourn in another simpler age. Inside the school’s rambling hallways and comfortably shambolic classrooms, a proper education, in all senses of the term, is unfolding. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 25 – September 1: POLINA

motw logo 1-35Raw, emotional, and creative, Valerie Muller and Angelin Preljocaj’s Polina is an engaging story about a young Russian dancer who needs to find her inner self before she can truly lose herself in her art. With strong and compelling performances both on and off the dance stage, the film is a powerful look at managing others’ expectations, having the courage to take chances, and believing in yourself. Continue reading…

read more

MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 18-25: DETROIT

motw logo 1-35Intense. Infuriating. Immediate. Kathryn Bigelow‘s powerful, often-heartbreaking historical drama Detroit is all of these things and more. Set amid the chaos, violence, and anger of the riots that dominated Motor City during the summer of 1967, the film’s narrative focuses on the police brutality that took place at the Algiers Motel on July 25 and 26 of that year, and the justice system’s subsequent whitewashing of that heinous event. Continue reading…

read more