AWFJ Presents: REVOLUTION: NEW ART FOR A NEW WORLD – Review by Nell Minow

“Victims or vanguards?” That is the challenge faced by the artists in Revolution: New Art for a New World, a documentary about the freedom-seeking artists who helped overthrow Russia’s repressive tsarist regime, only to find themselves repressed by its totalitarian replacement, Stalin. And the answer, sadly, was both. Down with abstraction. Up with realist monuments to revolutionary leaders, “monumental propaganda.” An artist who capitulated found one kind of success. A copy of his portrait of Lenin was hung in every Soviet schoolroom. Another ended up designing textiles for tractors.

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Katie Aselton on MACK & RITA, Diane Keaton and Collaboration – Nell Minow interviews

Katie Aselton is the director of the body-switching comedy Mack & Rita, about a 30-year-old who wishes she was 70 and is somehow transformed into Diane Keaton. In an interview she talked about how old she feels, directing Keaton (who played her mother in the film, Book Club), and why her favorite part of making movies is collaboration.

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SO YOU’VE GROWN ATTACHED – Review by Nell Minow

In this charming and wise short film, writer/director Kate Tsang tells a story of the first steps into growing up with captivating wit and charm, and with a quality that is even more rare, genuine whimsy. The black and white cinematography gives it a timeless, fairy tale quality that perfectly suits the mood of the story. Judith Viorst’s book, Necessary Losses, describes the often-wrenching pain that humans experience as we mature. That theme is brought to life in this film, as a young, sci-fi comics-loving girl named Izzy (Madeleine Conner) has a best friend who is sympathetic, supportive, fun, and always has time to play with her.

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HANNAH MARKS on Shooting DON’T MAKE ME GO in New Zealand – Nell Minow interviews

It is too late to call Hannah Marks a “promising” young director. She has more than delivered on the promise and quality of her first two films, After Everything and Banana Split with Don’t Make Me Go, starring Mia Isaac and John Cho as a teenage daughter and father on a car trip. Marks again demonstrates her exceptional skill in working with actors and in cinematic storytelling. In an interview, she talked about making New Zealand stand in for Southwestern USA, why road trip stories are an enduring theme, and telling a story about characters who are not talking to each other about what concerns them most.

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Debra McClutchy and Anne Alvergue on THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT – Nell Minow interviews

On Netflix, a new documentary from directors Debra McClutchy and Anne Alvergue is called The Martha Mitchell Effect, named for a psychiatric term inspired by Martha Mitchell’s story. It means someone whose comments are dismissed as mental illness but turned out to have been telling the truth. In an interview, the directors talked about doing research at the Nixon Library, what Martha liked about talking to the press, and why they see her as a hero.

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Dana Canedy on Faith, Love and A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN – Nell Minow interviews

The title of the book and movie is A Journal for Jordan, but it is really two journals. First Sgt. Charles Monroe King was deployed in Iraq when his son, Jordan, was born, and so his fiancée, Dana Canedy, gave him a journal to give him a connection to the son he would see just once before he was killed in action. When she received the journal with his effects, Canedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, shared her own story, with selections from King’s journal, framing each chapter as a letter to their son.

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Note to Hollywood: Fight Scenes Are Not Foreplay – Nell Minow comments

I was disappointed to see the same obsolete trope in two Hollywood films this month. In The Protégé and in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings we see a man and a woman in an all-out mixed martial arts fight. At least comparatively speaking, in these two very intense, full-on fight scenes, the women are the good guys and the men are extremely dangerous killers. And in both scenes, the fights are concluded not with one combatant defeating the other but with the couple having sex.

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Michelle J. Li on Costuming SHIVA BABY – Nell Minow interviews

Michelle J. Li designed the costumes for Shiva Baby, written and directed by Emma Seligman. It is set at a post-funeral gathering. The main character is Danielle, who arrives with her parents and runs into her ex-girlfriend and her “sugar daddy,” the man she has been sleeping with for gifts and money. He did not tell her he was married and the father of a baby. There are a lot of evasions, revelations, and confrontations, played more for farce than melodrama. In an interview, Li talked about the challenges of keeping distinctive looks for characters who are almost all wearing black and where she found the “expensive” bracelet that is the subject of much discussion in the film.

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The Assembled Ensemble on A WEEK AWAY – Nell Minow interviews

A Week Away is a sweet, unpretentious musical about a Christian summer camp for teens, told with heart and verve. Bailee Madison, who plays Avery, the daughter of the camp director, co-produced as well. Kevin Quinn plays Will, who is only at the camp because the alternative was going to juvie, Kat Conner plays the bookish Presley and Jahbril Cook plays George, the sweet, shy camper with a crush on her.

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Lara Gabrielle on Marion Davies and MANK – Nell Minow interviews

Marion Davies, movie star and long-time love of the wealthy media powerhouse William Randolph Hearst, is a featured character played by Amanda Seyfried in Mank, the story of Herman Mankiewicz as he wrote the original screenplay for Citizen Kane. Davies is better remembered as the inspiration for the untalented Susan Alexander character Kane tried to make into an opera star in Citizen Kane than for her own appealing appearances in film. Film historian Lara Gabrielle, author of a forthcoming book about Davies, discusses the real-life actress.

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