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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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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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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THAT’S NOT ME — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

“They wanted Amy and they got the other one. That’s what they actually called you in the feedback.” Poor Polly (Alice Foulcher). An aspiring actor who works part-time selling tickets at a cinema in Melbourne, she’s reminded daily that her identical twin Amy (also Alice Foulcher) has exactly the career she wants, including a role on an HBO series opposite Jared Leto. Worse, as her agent Trish (Janine Watson) tells her, Polly is “confusing people” because they keep mistaking her for her sister. 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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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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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 SHAPE OF WATER — review by Cate Marquis

Magical, evocative and haunting, THE SHAPE OF WATER blends Cold War thriller, fairy tale and monster movie genres in director Guillermo Del Toro’s best film since PAN’S LABYRINTH, as well as one of the year’s best. Continue reading…

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THE POST — Review by Cate Marquis

Steven Spielberg delivers a remarkable and timely film about freedom of the press, a story set in 1971 that has striking echoes for the present. President Nixon, who disdains the press, seeks to prevent publication of embarrassing secret government documents that expose decades of deceit of the American people on the Vietnam War. Continue reading…

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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….

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MOLLY’S GAME — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

mollys game poster“This woman does not belong in a RICO indictment. She belongs on a box of Wheaties.” Attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) gives a rousing speech near the end of Molly’s Game, one where he defends his client, Molly (Jessica Chastain), against a pair of government prosecutors. They want her to give up information on the men who played in her high stakes poker games. Charlie, it turns out, is borrowing his defense from his daughter Stella (Whitney Peak), who sees in Molly a role model and a hero. Continue reading…

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Filmmaker Margaret Betts on NOVITIATE — Interview by Kristen Page-Kirby

Novitiate” is a love story about a girl in a relationship with a guy who just doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to her. It’s a fairly typical tale, except the girl is a 17-year-old nun in training and the guy is God. In the drama, opening Friday, Cathleen (played by Margaret Qualley) enters the (fictional) convent of the Sisters of Blessed Rose in 1964. She begins her journey toward becoming a nun with a one-year stint as a postulant, getting used to the daily routine of the convent. That’s followed by two years as a novitiate, when she is expected to make herself worthy of the habit. Overseeing her journey is the Reverend Mother (Oscar winner Melissa Leo), who rules her convent with a terrifying power — a power she feels is threatened by the ongoing Second Vatican Council, which is making substantial changes regarding the role of nuns in the Roman Catholic Church. Continue reading…

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MOLLY’S GAME — Review by Beth Accomando

Aaron Sorkin created TV’s “West Wing” and “The Newsroom,” and won an Oscar for his script for “The Social Network.” Now he makes his feature film directing debut with “Molly’s Game.” You may not know Molly Bloom’s name but she was an Olympic class skier who suffered a career-ending injury and then ran an exclusive high stakes poker game that attracted Hollywood celebs and the FBI’s attention. As played by Jessica Chastain, Molly’s a smart, type A personality who seems able to adapt to any situation and who can succeed at anything she puts her mind to even when idiot men get in her way. Continue reading…

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Filmmaker Petra Volpe on THE DIVINE ORDER and Women’s Rights — Jessica Zack interviews

Filmmaker Petra Volpe’s engaging film, The Divine Order, is a box office hit in Switzerland and is the Swiss foreign-film entry to the 2018 Academy Awards/ The film was inspired by the fact that as the U.S. was convulsing with cultural change during the late ’60s, not only had women’s lib not made it to the small Alpine nation, but Swiss women wouldn’t have the right to vote in national elections until 1971. Continue reading…

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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…

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THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR — Review by Cate Marquis

recy taylor posterNancy Biurski’s timely documentary tells a personal story, of one woman’s brutal rape in 1944 rural Alabama, but then ties her individual experience to the larger themes of history, racism, sexism, white supremacy and patriarchy, in compelling and often surprising ways. Inspired in part by the book “At The Dark End Of The Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance – a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power” by Danielle L. McGuire, director Nancy Biurski skillfully blends the various elements into a documentary that is fascinating, informative and moving. Continue reading…

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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…

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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 BREADWINNER — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

breadwinner poster“Stay inside where you belong.” Again and again in The Breadwinner, 11-year-old Parvana (Saara Chaudry) is reminded of her place. A girl in 2001 Kabul, she’s surrounded by war and threatened by the Taliban. She’s not supposed to read, think for herself, or go outside without a man, she’s not supposed to show her face and she’s certainly not supposed to work a job. A the same time, however, her father Nurullah (Ali Badshah), a teacher, encourages her to explore the world around her, to feel confident and to tell and listen to stories, because, he says, “Stories remain in our hearts even when all else is gone.” Continue reading…

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THE BREADWINNER — Review by Sandie Angulo Chen

The Breadwinner is a beautifully animated drama from the co-director of The Secret of Kells that’s set in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Based on the young adult novel by Deborah Ellis, it centers on an 11-year-old girl who’s forced to pretend she’s a boy after her father is imprisoned. The movie heartbreakingly captures the violent, anti-women, anti-intellectual, and even anti-literacy stance of the Taliban regime. Women are harassed and beaten for not covering themselves properly, being in public without a husband/father, and drawing attention to themselves. Taliban soldiers and followers intimidate and threaten characters and keep one imprisoned. A few mild insults pepper the dialogue (“crazy,” “stupid,” “enemy of Islam,” etc.), but it’s the realistic violence that’s most likely to upset younger viewers. There’s also a story-within-the-story in which skeleton ghosts, attacking jaguars, and an evil elephant king figure prominently, but it’s not as frightening as the mistreatment of people (particularly girls and women) under Taliban rule. And, ultimately, themes of perseverance, curiosity, and courage prevail. Continue reading…

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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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11/8/16 — Review by Cynthia Fuchs

11-8-16 posterOn the morning of the 2016 US presidential election, national polls gave Donald Trump a 7 to 29% chance of winning. So begins 11/8/16, a documentary that compiles stories of that day, 16 subjects filmed by 16 artists. The first noise you hear is ticking, over a wide view of the Empire State Building in the early, still-dark hours. The sound suggests a countdown, bridging to a closeup of taxi driver Amrit at morning prayer. Afterwards, he speaks with fellow Sikhs, noting that they have been able to “have some identity” in America. “Otherwise,” he adds, “we don’t have an identity anywhere else in the world.” Continue reading…

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Films of 2017, November Update

motw logo 1-35Focusing specifically on films directed by women as well as those featuring strong female lead characters and female-centric stories, AWFJ’s Team #MOTW has endorsed more than 40 exceptional films during 2017, to date. Because we pick only one film per week for #MOTW endorsement, we’ve had to pass up a good number of superb films that qualified, but were not our collective top choice. In August we paused to list the Best Femme-Helmed, Femme-Centric Film of 2017, to Date, including #MOTW selections and others we’d particularly liked. Now that awards season is beginning, we’re updating that list to include films released from August through the end of October. Continue reading…

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