The Two Movies That Got Me Through January

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We’re well into 2019 and I’ve barely watched any movies because my kids have been so sick. January was a festival of viruses, a nasty cold that just never left and then, last week, when the last of the phlegm departed, my baby brought home a novel stomach flu that incubated for about 36 hours before hitting me, my husband, and my first-grader in six-hour intervals.

I feel like this is the third or fourth time I have written about illnesses, so at this point it is a leitmotif of this blog and probably warrants its own tag.

Anyway.

When Under The Tuscan Sun came out in 2003, I was 25, and I remember kind of wanting to see it, but feeling that it was for older women. That feeling didn’t always stop me from seeing movies I wanted to see–for instance, I sat in a theater of seventy-somethings watching the 2004 Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely–but in this case, I think a part of me thought I should save this movie for a time in my life when I needed it.

Well, my two readers, that time has come. I’m 40, and I spent the past six weeks cooped up in a virus-ridden apartment with a six-year-old, a one-year-old, and an unfinished novel manuscript. (The second unfinished novel to take up residence in my laptop in the past few years.) One night, I was perusing HBO’s offerings and I saw beautiful Diane Lane and a bouquet of yellow sunflowers. I thought, that is exactly what I need: beautiful Diane, sunflowers, Tuscany, and a serious real estate makeover.  Continue reading “The Two Movies That Got Me Through January”

As Usual, Oscar Nominations Include Few Women

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I was struggling to find a photo for this post, so I decided to find a happy one, of a woman directing a movie–Patty Jenkins, with Gal Gadot, on the set of Wonder Woman. 

This was the other image I was considering:

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As usual the Oscar Nominations had only a handful of female nominees. There were only four categories (out of twenty) in which women achieved parity or had the majority of nominations. Many categories did not include any women.

Continue reading “As Usual, Oscar Nominations Include Few Women”

My Weekend with the Gyllenhaals

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I spent the weekend watching two new movies that star the Gyllenhaal siblings: The Kindergarten Teacher, starring Maggie and Wildlife, with Jake. In both films, I thought the Gyllenhaals were especially well cast. I know they aren’t to everyone’s taste — and when I got home my husband and I got into a debate about whether or not Jake Gyllenhaal is actually a good actor — but I found them both to be pretty magnetic and appealingly odd. Neither really melt into a role and both have a way of throwing things off-kilter. So, they need the right movies for their talent.

Continue reading “My Weekend with the Gyllenhaals”

Falling Leaves and O. Henry

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The other day I discovered, quite by accident, that Alice Guy Blaché’s short film, “Falling Leaves” is based on the O. Henry story “The Last Leaf.” I was reading Meg Wolitzer’s editor’s introduction to 2017’s Best American Short Stories, and she mentioned that her favorite O. Henry story was about an artist who convinces a girl suffering from pneumonia that she will survive. The girl believes that she will die when the last leaf falls, so the artists paints an incredibly life-like leaf outside her window. It never falls, and the girl survives through sheer belief. But — and here’s the O. Henry twist — the artist dies from standing out in the cold and taking all the time to paint the leaf.

Initially I thought, hmm, did O. Henry see the Blaché film about the girl who ties leaves to a tree in a vain effort to save her sister, who is dying of tuberculosis? But I checked the dates and O. Henry’s story was published in 1907 while Blaché’s film was released in 1912:

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Then I did some googling and sure enough, Wikipedia already has it covered:

The plot of Falling Leaves owes elements to the O. Henry short story “The Last Leaf” (1907). The child hero is a recurring theme in Guy-Blaché films; the first film produced by Solax, A Child’s Sacrifice (1910), which also starred Magda Foy, is another example.

It’s just a little thing, but I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into Blaché’s creative process. By the way, you can watch the original film, “Falling Leaves” for free on Kanopy as part of the program, “Three Films by Alice Guy Blaché.”

 

Review: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché

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On Sunday I went to the New York Film Festival to catch a screening of Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché. This is a new documentary by Pamela B. Green about the first female film director, a young Parisian woman who began making films in 1897, just as film cameras were being invented and refined. Not only was she the first female director, it’s possible that she was the first narrative director, period. And yet, her contributions have been lost to history, while the achievements of the men she worked with have been lionized.

Co-written by Joan Simon, who curated an exhibition of Blaché’s films at the Whitney Museum, this is a documentary that aims to be accessible to someone who knows nothing or very little about Blaché — so, perfect for me. Although I’ve now seen a few of her films, I discovered her when I was looking for a title for this blog and wanted to find another female film pioneer to go with Thelma — preferably someone with a two-syllable name. Yes, my search was exactly that superficial, but sometimes the best bits of research are happy accidents.  Discovering Blaché has brought me back to the birth of cinema, something I’d never given much thought to — and it’s been a delight to find that someone like Alice was there at the beginning. Continue reading “Review: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché”

September Streaming

It’s the first week of October and I’m still catching up on all the movies I meant to review last month. I lost track of time with school starting at the beginning of the month, and then for the past couple of weeks I’ve been consumed by the Kavanagh hearings and aftermath. More to say about that, but I’ve been struck over the past few days by how easily people can see Kavanagh’s point of view, and sympathize with him, and how much that has to do with the fact that we are all accustomed to reading the male point of view, through decades of male-authored movies, television shows, novels, comic books, etc. Conversely, people are able to listen to Blasey Ford, and feel bad for her, and maybe even believe that she was assaulted, but they disregard the details that place her story in a shared reality, i.e. her naming of Kavanagh and his friend Mark Judge. It’s as if she doesn’t exist in the world as completely as Kavanagh does.

Anyway, here are five quick reviews of some movies that are streaming now. All are worth a watch, and one is a masterpiece.  Continue reading “September Streaming”

Review: I AM NOT A WITCH

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The title of this movie drew me in: Was it a declaration? A denial? A defense? At the end of the screening I attended, the director and writer, Rungano Nyoni, said she was first embarrassed by her title, because it struck her as an overheated, reminiscent of a Lifetime movie. But over time, she said, she grew to love it, and it became a feminist mantra: “I am not a witch!” The idea of a woman being accused of witchcraft is, on the one hand ridiculous, but the idea of women as irrational and in need of control is very much alive in cultures across the world.

In Nyoni’s remarkable debut, an orphaned girl is singled out as witch for no discernible reason. Continue reading “Review: I AM NOT A WITCH”