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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Dana Nachman on DEAR SANTA – Nell Minow interviews

Dana Nachman’s documentaries make me cry because they are all about kindness. Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World was the story of the entire city of San Francisco coming together to give a child with cancer a chance to be Batman. Pick of the Litter follows puppies through their training to be guide dogs for people who are visually impaired. Her latest film, Dear Santa, is the story of the USPS workers and volunteers who read the letters children write to Santa and help make their Christmas wishes come true. In an interview, Nachman talked about why this film was “the most tricky” of her films and the three elements she wants to have in all of her movies.

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Rick Rowley talks KINGDOM OF SILENCE and Revealing Hidden Truths – Nell Minow Interviews

Kingdom of Silence is a new documentary about the relationship of the United States and Saudi Arabia. It is a powerful film with two unforgettably shattering scenes. In one, we see the transcript of the cold-blooded murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the killers sounding like Mafia hit men. Director Rick Rowley talks about telling this complicated and murky politically entrenched story and what his top priority would be for whomever wins the Presidential election on November 3.

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The New MULAN’s Critical Chi – Nell Minow comments

Nothing is simple and straightforward and uncontroversial in 2020, not even a live-action remake of a popular Disney animated film. Whether intended to or not, the new Mulan has achieved one of the essential goals of any work of art in provoking thoughtful conversations that transcend but are illuminated by the story we see on whatever screen we see it on.

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Eliza Hittman on NEVER, RARELY, SOMETIMES, ALWAYS – Nell Minow interviews

Writer/director Eliza Hittman did a lot of research for her film about a teenager who has to go to another state for an abortion, Never Rarely Sometimes Always. The authenticity of the story is deeply felt throughout the film. In an interview, Hittman talked about taking the literal journey she would later show her characters on, why stories about teenagers are so compelling, and what her “dream world” would be for access to reproductive health care.

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FEELS GOOD MAN (SXSW2020) – Review by Nell Minow

Feels Good Man is not just comic artist Matt Furie’s story, or even that of his creation, Pepe the frog. It is the story of us, and it illuminates some confusing and painful realities about the way we communicate, form opinions, and make vital decisions about the future of our country, and so much that doesn’t feel good, man.

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I USED TO GO HERE (SXSW2020) – Review by Nell Minow

Imagine visiting the house where you lived as a child and standing next to the marks on the doorway where your parents measured your growth each year. All around us are invisible marks that measure where we are and every so often, usually unexpectedly, we get a chance to see exactly how far we have — and haven’t gone. Whether we want to or not.

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