BATTLE OF THE SEXES – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

battle of the sexes poster There’s a necessity to a movie like Battle of the Sexes, an urgency to be seen, that goes beyond its sheer entertainment value, which is also enormous. It doesn’t feel like the essential history lesson that it is, though would that it didn’t make me rather depressed to see how little has really changed in 44 years. Somehow, the directing team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris has captured the amusement value of retro kitsch without their film being actually kitschy (perhaps because its subject matter sadly feels so au courant). Somehow they’ve made a film that quietly debunks the spurious notion that feminism can’t be fun by itself being fun, full of cheery bashes at outrageous sexism and an aura of sporting (in all senses of the word) can-do spirit. Continue reading…

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES — Review by Jeanne Wolf

“Battle of the Sexes” is not your traditional sports drama. You’re probably expecting to spend a lot of time watching the ball go back and forth across the net in this biopic based on the classic match watched by millions between the Number One Women’s tennis player Billie Jean King and former champ and unstoppable hustler Bobby Riggs. Continue reading…

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES — Review by Cate Marquis

Emma Stone gives a strong, appealing performance in BATTLE OF THE SEXES, a well-meaning if uneven film about the 1973 tennis match between tennis great Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs. It is overstating it to call it a Billy Jean King biopic. Instead it focuses on a cultural pivot point when 29-year-old women’s tennis champion Billy Jean King (Stone) took part in a match against a clownish self-described male chauvinist named Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell). But despite his buffoon behavior and penchant for wearing outlandish costumes during matches, Bobby Riggs was no ordinary clown on the court but a former tennis champ and Hall of Famer. The comedy distracted his opponents on the court, concealing the fact that at 55, Riggs was still a formidable tennis player. Continue reading…

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DOLORES — Review by Sheila Roberts

dolores posterPeter Bratt’s tightly paced, vibrant documentary profiles tireless labor activist Dolores Huerta who never doubted her calling and how it gave meaning to her life. Huerta played a pivotal role in the founding of the United Farm Workers Union alongside Cesar Chavez. As a key grassroots organizer and union strategist with serious lobbying and negotiating skills, she found herself at the intersection of a social revolution in the ‘60s and ‘70s that encompassed racial and labor justice, the environment, feminism and gender equality. Continue reading…

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DOLORES — Review by Cate Marquis

Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farm Workers Union, the person who coined the phrase “Yes, We Can” (“Si Se Puede”), a labor organizer instrumental in leading the 1960s grape boycott, and a social activist for Chicano, Native American and Latinos rights, should be a name everyone knows, as familiar as that of Caesar Chavez, the other co-founder of the National Farm Workers Union. Never heard of Dolores Huerta? Many people haven’t, and that’s the problem the new documentary DOLORES sets out to remedy. Continue reading…

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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…

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Yance Ford on STRONG ISLAND, Grief and Injustice — Jennifer Merin interviews

yance ford headYance Ford has been an influential member of the documentary film community for some years, working as a programmer for POV and commissioning the works of others. With Strong Island, he turns his smarts and skills to making in a highly personal documentary about the murder of his brother and the impact that heinous event had on his family. He sat down with me to discuss Strong Island, rage and grief, injustice and wonderment. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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STRONG ISLAND — Review by Cate Marquis

strongislandposterSTRONG ISLAND is a documentary that seems at first to focus on a murder never prosecuted more than two decades later. But as we gradually discover, the documentary is really about the impact of that injustice on family left behind. No reason for the failure to charge the killer with murder is given to the victim’s middle-class, suburban Black parents but the fact that the 19-year-old shooter was White raises questions. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK September 1- 8: SCHOOL LIFE

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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…

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SCHOOL LIFE — Review by Elizabeth Whittemore

School Life pulls at the heartstrings of this former substitute teacher and children’s theatre director with its effortless charm. Following a married couple who teach at an Irish boarding school, this doc will bring you back to the days where being away from home can be both all consuming and exciting. Continue reading

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SCHOOL LIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

school life posterSchool Life, also known as In Loco Parentis, is a charming little documentary focused on an old Irish boarding school and particularly on a long-married couple who serves as teachers, John and Amanda Leyden, who guide and chide their students with dry wit, like somewhat eccentric but warm-hearted grandparents. Those who saw, and were charmed by, the 2002 French documentary To Have and To Be, which followed a teacher in a rural school, will recognize the same immersive, un-narrated style and an equal amount of warm appeal. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Susan Granger

In this scathing docudrama, Kathryn Bigelow, the Oscar-winning director of “The Hurt Locker’ and “Zero Dark Thirty,” depicts the civil unrest that rocked Detroit in the volatile summer of 1967. It begins on the night of July 23 with a violent police raid on “The Blind Pig,” an unlicensed bar and African-American social club located on the second floor of a printing company, inciting what came to be known as the 12th Street Riot. Continue reading…

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STEP — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

STEP POSTERForget those silly Step Up movies. Even though they are set in the world of hip-hop street-dance competitions that are primarily an “urban” — read: black — phenomenon, they manage to focus almost entirely on white characters. Instead, here’s Step, which is literally the real thing. Hugely cheering and cheer-worthy, this documentary look at a high-school girls’ step team covers so much ground that unforgivably goes mostly unexamined onscreen: it couldn’t be fresher or more important. It’s also wildly entertaining while simultaneously enormously enlightening. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Pam Grady

detroit posterIn the summer of 1967, while the West Coast grooved to the Summer of Love, Detroit burned in five days of rioting that pitted the African American community against the arrayed forces of the Detroit police department, Michigan state police, and the National Guard. In her most potent film to date, Kathryn Bigelow reteams with screenwriter Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) to stunningly recreate that time. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Cate Marquis

detroit posterIn Detroit, director Kathryn Bigelow spotlights the civil unrest that shook Detroit in the summer of 1967, and particularly the infamous events that took place at the Algiers Motel, when police abused a group of mostly black men and killed three. One would have hoped that 50 years on, we would be looking back those events and noting how far we have come. Sadly, that is not the case. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 11 to 18, 2017: PATTI CAKE$

motw logo 1-35Opening August 18, Patti Cake$ tells the story of aspiring New Jersey rapper Patricia “Killa P” Dombrowski, portrayed by Australian actress Danielle Macdonald in a breakout perfomance. Patti lives with her single mom, Barb (Bridget Everett), and grandmother, Nana (Cathy Moriarty), in near squalor in urban New Jersey. Barb spends her evenings getting drunk and bitterly reveling in memories of her youthful days of near-stardom as a pop singer — a dream that fell by the wayside when she got pregnant with Patti. Patti, without outbursts of rebellion or resentment, sustains the family with menial jobs, while literally dreaming every night of stardom, as over-the-top visions of famous rapper O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah) float through her sleeping mind. Continue reading…

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PATTI CAKE$ — Review by Cate Marquis

PATTI CAKE$ is a winning underdog tale, about an overweight 23-year-old white woman whose youthful dreams of being a rapper are fading while she struggling to get by in lower working class New Jersey. Patti (Australian actress Danielle Macdonald) lives with, and takes care of, her hard-drinking, sometimes abusive mother (Bridget Everett) and wheelchair-bound Nana (Cathy Moriarty) in a cramped, squalid apartment. Patti supports them all working as bartender in a local dive bar. and her only escape is rapping and hanging-out with her only friend, fellow rapper Raneesh (Siddharth Dhananjay). She calls him Jheri and he calls her Killa P., but daily Patti stoically endures the neighborhood bullies who call her Dumbo. Together with a shy, angry black punk rocker (Mamoudou Athie ), Patti takes a last shot at her dream. Continue reading…

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DETROIT — Review by Diana Saenger

Detroit is about the riots that took place in Motor City in 1967. Kathryn Bigelow directs, Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) wrote the screenplay. These multitalented filmmakers have taken a true life drama and produced a film that should be shown on every TV in every home in America. Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 28-August 4: STEP

motw logo 1-35An inspiring documentary about a group of African-American teen girls who find success through a mix of hard work, grit, high expectations, and dedicated mentorship, Amanda Lipitz’s Step is both engaging and uplifting. It follows the competitive step-dancing team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a public charter school with a very ambitious goal: that all of its graduates attend college. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Cate Marquis

Director Pamela Yates well-made, affecting 500 YEARS is the third and final film in her documentary series on Guatemala and the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in that country. Although the film is the third in the series, it stands well on its own, recapping critical points from the first two films. Clips from the first two films, WHEN THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE and GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR, are included in this final one. The first film, in 1983, actually provided evidence in the trial of former military leader and president Montt, that trial being the subject of the second film. Continue reading…

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500 YEARS — Review by Jennifer Merin

pamela yates 500 years poster500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with its companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

THE MIDWIFE POSTER‘We’ll never understand each other.” Claire (Catherine Frot) stands abruptly, ready to leave the restaurant where she’s just sat down with Béatrice (Catherine Deneuve). A long shot near the start of Martin Provost’s The Midwife (Sage Femme) reveals other diners, oblivious to the drama at center screen. Béatrice gazes up at Claire, surprised at her upset: “We were just starting to be friends again.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 14-21: THE MIDWIFE

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Two women, one old wound, and a whole lot of wine. Boiled down to its essential ingredients, Martin Provost’s new film The Midwife is diverting enough, filled with small pleasures, and sometimes that is enough. Especially when the two women are so beautifully portrayed by Catherine Deneuve and Catherine Frot. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by Cate Marquis

THE MIDWIFE POSTERTwo great Catherines – Deneuve and Frot – star in THE MIDWIFE, a thoughtful French-language tale of family, childhood memories, and changing life in modern France. As the title suggests, one of the central characters is a midwife, a profession with a long and honorable history bringing the next generation into this world. Claire (Catherine Frot) is a really good one, the best at the little clinic near Paris where she works, but the small old-fashioned clinic is closing down, unable to compete with the big modern hospital nearby. Claire resists the idea of going to work for the big hospital, as she resists so many other changes. At home, Claire put aside her own personal life to concentrate on raising her son, now a student in medical school. Continue reading…

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THE MIDWIFE — Review by MaryAnn Johanson

Director Martin Provost wrote Midwife’s script specifically for his stars, French legends Catherine Frot and Catherine Deneuve, and he is beautifully attuned to each actor’s strengths. Frot (Marguerite, La Nouvelle Eve) is the titular midwife, Claire, and the most important birthing she needs to attend to at the moment is the next stage of her life. Continue reading…

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