2 Light & (Mostly) Delightful Movies Written by Women

Recently I gave two movies the benefit of the doubt simply because they were written by women. That is, they looked kind of silly, and were directed by men, but the screenwriters were female so I thought I’d give them a chance . . .

simple favor

The first was A Simple Favor, which came out last year and I think was a bit of a sleeper hit because it stayed in NYC theaters for quite a while–though maybe I’m just out of it and didn’t realize what a big movie it was. Anyway, I watched it at home last month with my husband. I had to suggest it for a few nights before he agreed to watch, not because of any snobbery on his part, but because it’s really hard to tell what this movie is. From the trailer, it seemed like a light thriller that maybe took itself too seriously. But it is not that, at all. Continue reading “2 Light & (Mostly) Delightful Movies Written by Women”

Birds of Passage

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From its joyous opening dance sequence to its melancholy ending, Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) is unlike any movie you have seen about illegal drug trafficking. It’s a gangster movie that downplays violence, looks closely at attempts at peacemaking, and is centered on the fate of a mother and a daughter. Set in Colombia between the late 1960s and early 1980s, the film is told from the perspective of a Wayúu family who live in the arid, northern region of the country and become significant exporters of marijuana to the U.S. Their success in the drug trade brings wealth, but it also pulls them into a world of violence and greed that engulfs and divides their family and their community.

Read the rest of this review over at The Common

In Defense of Reserved Seating

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I recently read critic A.S. Hamrah’s latest dispatch on n+1. I’ve always liked that he writes about the experience of going to the movies as well as the movies themselves. Last month, he wrote about the trend of reserved seating, which he finds undemocratic:

Reserved seats are antithetical to moviegoing, which traditionally and democratically has been first come, first served. You could move to a different seat if a weirdo (or anybody) was sitting too close. This new nonegalitarian system is fancy and inappropriate. It takes too long and it huddles people together. 

I had a weirdly personal and defensive reaction to this statement, because I am a parent of two young children, and reserved seating has made it a lot easier for me to see movies. I rely on it to get seats (two seats together) to popular movies or special screenings. It would be my pleasure to arrive early for one of these movies and wait in line with a book or a podcast, but I can’t, because I have to give my kids dinner and get them ready for bed before I can go out. Without reserved seating, my husband and I have to plan for an extra 45 minutes of waiting, which is basically an hour of babysitting time, or $15-20. (Also, a lot of weeknight sitters have day jobs or nannying gigs and they can’t get to our place until 6:30 at the earliest.) So, a theater that allows us to reserve two seats together is a major convenience. We go to more movies than we used to because of reserved seating.

Continue reading “In Defense of Reserved Seating”

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 two small children 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: Diane, flower gardens, 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.”