NOMADLAND – Review by Leslie Combemale

the film examines the phenomenon of travelers going across the country in search of work, through the lens of a widow named Fern (McDormand), who lives in her van. Other than co-star David Strathairn, who plays a fellow nomad, the secondary characters are played by real people on the nomad community. McDormand, Zhao, and crew members lived out of vans during production. The result is a film that is beautiful and sad and unique. It will blow you away. 

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REBECCA – Review by Leslie Combemale

Director Ben Wheatley’s new incarnation of Rebecca is a valiant reinterpretation that is truer to Daphne Du Maurier’s book than it is to the Hitchcock film. While some might argue that a new version of the story is unnecessary, it fills the holes in our imagination as to how the tale plays out, etching into our minds how the flawed romantic characters get out of a jam.

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BLITHE SPIRIT (Middleburg FF 2020) – Review by Leslie Combemale

A new film adaptation of Noel Coward’s famously ‘spirited’ 1941 play Blithe Spirit is coming to a (insert however the hell we’ll be seeing movies in December) near you, starring pretty pretties Isla Fisher, Dan Stevens, and Leslie Mann, and the Middleburg Film Festival offered a drive-in screening of this fluffy farce, this celebration of cynicism, on the fest’s opening night. Screenwriter Piers Ashworth reinvigorates the story with a more female-friendly, feminist bend, and one character who is decidedly more sympathetic, although the story still takes place in the 30s, with all the attendant style and panache.

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ON THE ROCKS – Review by Leslie Combemale

As much as I’m a proponent of female filmmakers, I’ve never much been one for the movies of Sophia Coppola. With On the Rocks, that has changed. I loved the film, and believe it’s one of the best vehicles in Bill Murray’s career. Sometimes his shtick brings attention to itself to such a degree that we become removed from the story or whatever is happening onscreen. Not so in On the Rocks. On the contrary, he gets so far out of his own way, his portrayal brings us all the more into the story. He is an unqualified marvel.

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Julie Taymor on THE GLORIAS and Female Collectivity – Leslie Combemale interviews

Julie Taymor has been making films in Hollywood since way before the recent uptick of (finally) hiring female filmmakers, so she knows a thing or two about fighting, or perhaps better to say, subverting the patriarchy. Her new film The Glorias takes audiences through the life (so far) of political activist, writer, and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem. Given the p*ssy-grabbing hot mess America has become in the last 4 years, the film is landing right on time.

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MISBEHAVIOUR – Review by Leslie Combemale

At its core, Misbehaviour is a crowd pleaser, and that’s a good thing. All over the world, things have been especially tough on women lately. The film also has strong, inspiring messages, mostly based in the idea that ‘well-behaved women rarely make history’, and that it is essential to upend the status quo if it keeps members of society down.

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BEANS (TIFF 2020) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Framed by a challenging era in Canadian history, Beans is a good film for mothers and daughters to watch and discuss. Friendship, family, and standing your ground, as complicated as that can, are amplified from a female lens, and from the voice of a woman director who knows the story from personal experience. We could use more of these films to help guide girls through their self discovery, and help families support them on their journey.

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STUNTWOMEN: THE UNTOLD HOLLYWOOD STORY – Review by Leslie Combemale

You’ll learn from Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story. Because of the personal anecdotes and perspectives from stuntwomen of multiple generations, demonstrations of how some stunts were and are done, and the show of authentic passion, expertise and enthusiasm these women have for their craft, the film is always entertaining and fascinating.

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TENET – Review by Leslie Combemale

Fans of writer/director Christopher Nolan are not strangers to bent time, trippy constructs in physics, or highbrow filmmaking. Unfortunately, all that wizardry can’t make up for the lack of character development and mental gymnastics required to buy into and stick with the story of Tenet.

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CRITICAL THINKING – Review by Leslie Combemale

The joy and pride that permeate this story of chess coach T. Martinez’ intellectual heroism in Critical Thinking are like a healing salve to the bleakness of our news cycle. That we can be inspired by a teacher and kids who rise above a system built to deny them, is all the reason we need to celebrate the film.

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