R.I.P. Lynn Shelton

SAGIndie Brunch At Cafe Terigo - Park City 2013

Director Lynn Shelton died on Saturday and it hit home for me, for a lot of reasons. First: I really liked her movies, and reviewed two of them on this blog: Sword of Trust and Outside In. They were mellow, lived-in, gentle, kind, and deeply humane. Her characters felt real and her stories always had an interesting shape. She also directed a lot of TV shows I watched, including GLOW, Love, The Good Place, The Mindy Project, New Girl — to name just a few. She came to directing late in life, at age 39, but then she was prolific, directing eight feature films and numerous television shows. She was one of those directors I watched out for; I felt like her best work was ahead of her. I can’t believe she’s dead. She was only 54.

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Review: How To Build A Girl

How-to-Build-a-GirlHow To Build A Girl (2020) ★★1/2
Director: Coky Giedroyc
Writer: Caitlin Moran (based on Moran’s novel)

I know many people believe it’s always best to read the book before the movie, but I’m on the fence. Very often, the book outshines the movie by a long shot — especially if you read the book shortly before seeing the movie, as I did with How To Build A Girl, which is based on Caitlin Moran’s 2014 novel by the same title. I loved the book, loved its early 1990s setting and its teenage heroine, Johanna Morrigan, a working-class girl who is obsessed with sex and books and writing. She’s a girl so sure of her literary talent that she auditions to be a rock critic without knowing a thing about rock music. She gets CDs from the library to catch up and invents a rock critic persona, “Dolly Wilde.” Soon, she has a full-time magazine job, and is going to concerts, meeting rock stars and having lots of sex. It’s very, very fun reading. And then at the end, you cry!

So, look: the movie had a lot to live up to . . . Continue reading “Review: How To Build A Girl”

My Quarantine Binge-watch: Hillary

hillaryHillary (2020) ★★★1/2
Director: Nanette Burstein
Streaming on Hulu

Ever since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with her, reading interviews and post-mortems, as well as Clinton’s own memoir about the 2016 campaign, What Happened? I also read Amy Chozick’s memoir, Chasing Hillary, about covering both of Clinton’s presidential runs for the New York Times. When I heard that Nanette Burstein had made a 4-hour documentary about Clinton’s life, I didn’t think I’d be interested in revisiting material that I already knew so well. At the beginning of the quarantine, I gave the first episode a try, but it didn’t grab me, especially when I saw how reliant it was on first-person interviews with Clinton, as well as Amy Chozick. I felt like I’d already heard from both of them and I wanted a new perspective.

But then quarantine started to wear on me. I kept thinking about what this period would be like if Clinton were president. . . Continue reading “My Quarantine Binge-watch: Hillary”

R.I.P. Irrfan Khan

irrfan khan

I was just finishing up a different post when I saw the news that Irrfan Khan had passed away. So, so sad. Today is for Irrfan Khan, an extraordinary actor. When I was looking at his IMDB profile, I realized I’ve only seen a handful of his performances, but he brings so much to every role that I feel I know him well.

I first noticed him in The Namesake, Mira Nair’s wonderful adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s 2003 novel by the same name. I loved the novel and worried that the movie would oversimplify it, but the moment Irrfan Khan came on screen, he not only lived up to the character in the book, he made it deeper. He was an actor who expressed himself in the way he moved and breathed, the dialogue was just icing on the cake. Every ounce of him was revealing of character and story. I am so sad that he has left this world. He was only 53. I wanted to see him in more roles as he got older. He was one of those actors who shows you how to live.

UPDATE: 2020 Movies Directed or Written by Women

thelma_alice_movie_collage_2020.001

I’m reposting this movie calendar, since a lot of the release dates have shifted over the past couple of months. The blockbusters and big-budget pictures have been delayed, but many independent films are having digital premieres. I’m hoping to catch with some of them over the next few weeks . . .

In the meantime, here’s my ongoing list of 2020 movies written or directed by women. These are mostly narrative films, but I’ve thrown in some documentaries, too. I’ve included specific dates when available, and some color-coding to help make sense of all the postponements and streaming changes due to quarantine.

BLACK = theatrical release/virtual theaters
GREEN = originated in and/or intended for theaters, now available VOD
PURPLE = originating on a specific streaming platform, i.e. Netflix, HBO, Disney +

Last updated: 10/09/20

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Review: Crip Camp

crip campCrip Camp: A Disability Revolution (2020) ★★★1/2
Directed by James Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham
Streaming on Netflix 

Crip Camp is a Netflix film, produced by Barack and Michelle Obama, but I had the unusual experience of seeing it on the big screen a few weeks ago for a press screening. I say unusual not only because this is a documentary that most people will watch at home but because I ventured out to see it when people were just starting to feel nervous about Coronavirus. I wasn’t even sure I should go, but at that time, my kids were still in school, my husband was still going into to work and out to evening events and except for everyone washing their hands a lot, things were relatively normal. It’s eerie how quickly things have changed.

Anyway, I went into the screening feeling anxious and scatterbrained but left feeling centered and full of hope. Crip Camp tells the story of the disability rights movement, which was seeded at a teen summer camp called Camp Jened. The camp itself, located in upstate New York near Woodstock, was ordinary and in terms of its offerings. There was a pool, arts and crafts, sports, and music. The usual. What made it extraordinary was that every kid who went was disabled, which meant that a bunch of teenagers who were used to being pushed to the side were suddenly front and center. For the first time in their lives, the kids experienced what it was like to be among people who were not put off or scared by their disabilities, and who saw them in terms of their personalities, interests, and dreams. It was so freeing that for many of the campers, it was a political awakening. As one camper puts it, there was a realization that “the problem with the disabled isn’t with the disabled, it’s with the outside world.”

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Hysterical Girl Lets Freud’s Dora Tell Her Side of the Story

Originally slated for SXSW, the New York Times is now streaming Hysterical Girl, a documentary short about Freud’s classic case study, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Writer and director Kate Novack argues that instead of being a case study of sexual repression, Freud’s Dora is actually a classic example of how men ignore, misinterpret, and cover up reports of abuse from girls and women.

I just watched it and was impressed by how many ideas it crammed into 13 minutes. The movie is anchored by a dramatic monologue that uses Freud’s own notes to give voice to Dora’s side of the story. The monologue is illustrated by a rapid collage of images and clips from classic films and TV shows, news coverage of Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford, and other women who have stood up to men in power, and hand-drawn animations.

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

contagion

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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Review: First Cow

first cowFirst Cow (2020) ★★★★1/2
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Written by Kelly Reichardt and Jonathan Raymond

The plain title of Kelly Reichardt’s eighth feature film belies a richlydetailed period piece set in 1820s Oregon Territory. But before immersing you in the past, Reichart opens in the present, with a shot of alarge industrial ship making its way down the Willamette RiverAlong a piece of undeveloped shoreline, a woman and her dog are walking when the dog’s playful digging uncovers a human skull. Curious, thewoman continues digging to reveal two full skeletons lying next to each anotherAs is typical of a Reichardt movie, this action unfolds wordlessly but with attention to the sounds of the natural world: the chirping of nearby birds, the dog’s panting and scuffling paws, and the river flowing byThis quiet, observational approach makes the discovery of two skeletons feel interesting, rather than ominous. However, I must admit that what I found most arresting about this scene was a lightweight pink scarf that the woman was wearing tied around her neck in a loose bow. It was the only warm color in a scene dominated by grays, blues, and greens, and as the woman’s scarf fluttered in breeze, I felt that it, as well as the skeletons, had a secret meaning. . . 

Read the rest over at The Common