The New Reality of Movie(not)going

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I’m having a lot of trouble adjusting to this new reality of Coronavirus. It feels both like I just had my first baby and also, like I’m a teenager, stuck in the house and beholden to my parents. Except I have none of the transformative and energy-giving hormones of new motherhood or the teen years. So I’m just like WHAT IS HAPPENING over and over again. My son’s school and extra-curricular clubs keep sending links to “learning platforms,” and every wellness service I have ever subscribed to, whether it’s the Y (which is now closed) or the mushroom coffee I occasionally splurge on, is inviting me to view videos or join informational zoom hang-outs and I’m like, is this for you, or is it for me? Be honest!

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Coronavirus Cancellations

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A couple of weeks ago, when I updated my 2020 movie list, I included selections from the SXSW Film Festival, but now the festival has been cancelled to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. My husband thinks the Tribeca Film Festival, which is about a month from now, will also be cancelled, but I’m not sure — although maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part, because I was hoping to attend a few screenings.

I feel bad for the independent filmmakers who were going to showcase their work at the SXSW. It must be so disappointing to lose that potential career boost. I’m going to continue to track these films and also, the films slated for Tribeca, in case they show up somewhere else.

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Your Perfect Valentine’s Day Movie

hemadramamaisexterieure4612433621Are you looking for a stunning love story to watch tonight? This is it. I reviewed it for The Common last year when it was in limited release. It goes into wide release this weekend. See it on the big screen with surround sound! You need to hear the waves crashing, the fires crackling, and the music in the final scene.

New Year’s Resolutions

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Happy New Year! I’m feeling a lot of New Year’s Resolutions energy this year. Maybe there’s some astrological reason for this, or maybe I’m just getting slightly more sleep because my daughter has finally stopped waking up at 5:45? I don’t know, but I’m going with it. This morning, I got out of bed and SPRINTED around the park near my house. It was the equivalent of a cold water plunge in terms of getting my heart rate going. My goal is to do it every day for a few months to see if it helps get my mornings going a little more quickly.

I have a bunch of other NYE resolutions related to my kids and my schedule, but I won’t bore you with those. Instead, I will bore you with my blogging goals. I wasn’t sure if I would keep this site up but after almost two years of focusing my viewing habits on female directors and screenwriters, I feel like I have more to say. I’d like to reach a wider audience with this blog and to write more ambitious, wider-ranging essays about movies and popular culture.

With that in mind, here are my 2020 goals for Thelma & Alice: Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions”

Criticism vs. Activism

Recently I’ve been wondering if I’m a critic or an activist, and where is the line, and is it possible to be both, or does activism undermine criticism? This blog obviously has an activist bent: I want people to make an effort to see more movies by women, in order to support women’s artistic careers. My criticism is colored by this desire, although I hope that bias is limited to my choice of review subjects. I’m not grading women on a curve. (Although I do grade a debut on a curve, male or female.) If it’s not obvious, I do continue to see movies by male directors, I just don’t review them on this site.

The truth is, I don’t see myself as either an activist or a critic. Of the two labels, I’m much closer to critic, but as a writer, I’m most comfortable writing fiction. As a movie critic, I tend to analyze film from a literary point of view, because I feel I have a good understanding of how a story is put together. I also enjoy writing about acting and costume design, because these are subjects I’ve paid attention to since I was a little kid. But it has taken me a long time to analyze the more technical aspects of filmmaking, things like camera angles and sound design. I’ve also never studied film formally. So, I often feel like an amateur when I write about it. Does every critic feel this way, or is this just an example of imposter syndrome–a species of self-doubt tends to afflict women more than men?

It’s hard for me to separate my criticism from an activist impulse because I doubt I would have taken the leap to writing about film if not for the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I knew the industry was hard on women, and I knew that most film critics were men, but I didn’t realize the extent of the damage to women’s careers and artistry. And, as cheesy as it sounds, another big inspiration was seeing Rey in the Star Wars films. I’ve told this story before, but I was seated next to a little girl at the screening of The Force Awakens and she was so shocked and delighted to see a girl as the lead that I felt kind of sad. She wasn’t that old–maybe 5?–and already she was conditioned to expect a boy at the center of a movie.

A lot of these thoughts were stirred up by This Changes Everything, the documentary that I reviewed yesterday. It’s taken me a while to gain confidence as a movie critic, and I often doubt myself, but I have to remind myself that I’m here because not enough women are writing about movies. And I’m staying here, because after a two-year media diet, in which I made sure that the majority of what I watched was written or directed by a woman, I have a lot more to say. When you bring the female gaze into your life, it changes you. I feel I can see more clearly the biases in the film criticism, and in the industry in general. I’ll be writing more about that in the coming months, and hopefully publishing my work in some larger venues. But this blog will remain my home base, my sketchbook, my first draft.

Lots of Female Directors at TIFF

AntigoneDirector Sophie Deraspe adapts Antigone 

I was reading a bummer of an article in Hollywood Reporter about there are only two female directors showing films at the Venice Film Festival, when I remembered that I had meant to check the Toronto Film Festival listings, which, happily, are a completely different story. There are many, many films directed by women and what is especially delightful is the way the website includes “female directors” as a genre, so that you can see a complete listing of female-directed films. This made it especially easy to update my 2019 Female Directed/Written films list.

One of these days I’m going to get to the Toronto Film Festival. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time, because it always seems to have the movies I’m most excited about, and this year is no exception: They are showing Julie Delpy’s My Zoe, Kasi Lemmon’s Harriet, and Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. 

Movies I Watched in Florida: Part 2

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Writing to you from lovely but chilly Brooklyn. It feels good to be home. We went to the playground and I made two little videos of my daughter. I’m experimenting with my home videos, trying to make them with some thoughtfulness and a sense of narrative or at least framing them in some way. I’ve only been doing it for a few days but I feel like it’s already helping me to understand better how story is conveyed through film. I was going to post the video here because it’s pretty low-key in terms of showing my daughter–you can’t see her face clearly–but apparently that would require giving WordPress access to all my photos on Google. So, I’ll put the video sharing on hold for now, until I figure out how to address all the privacy issues.

Anyway, back to the movies I saw in Florida, which, surprisingly, included Singin’ in the Rain. It was showing on Sunday night, our second night in Florida, as part of Epic Theatre’s “Flashback Cinema.” Epic Theatre seems to be a cineplex chain in the south, and our screening  was introduced, via video, by one of its executives, who shared some interesting facts about the movie. For instance: did you know that Gene Kelly has a 103 degree fever when he shot the title number, “Singin’ in the Rain?” Did you know the entire movie was written around that song? I did not. Nor did I know that Debbie Reynolds was not Gene Kelly’s first, second, third, or fourth choice and that she had to prove herself. To prepare, she took dance classes for eight hours a day for six months. Which is incredible. I feel like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling did not put that much effort in for La La Land. Their dancing style was sort of “whatever works.” Whereas Debbie Reynolds’s was “I’m gonna make this work/prove myself to Gene Kelly.” Can you imagine the pressure? Only someone as young and hungry as Reynolds was then would have been able to stomach it.

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