Review: Clemency

clemencyClemency (2019) ★★★1/2
Written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu

Clemency looks closely at the bureaucratic processes and day-to-day workplace politics behind the administration of the death penalty. In doing so, it powerfully argues that the death penalty is psychologically cruel to the prisoners who receive it as a sentence, the prison workers who carry out the executions, and even the families of those victimized by crime. It’s one of the most intellectually engaging movies I’ve seen over the past year, one that forced me to sit with a lot of difficult questions that went beyond whether or not the death penalty should exist.

The movie opens on the evening of an execution, overseen by the prison warden, Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard). Warden Williams is pensive as she manages the people who will join her in the execution room: a priest, a security officer, her deputy, and a medic who will give the convicted man with a lethal chemical injection. Everyone seems tense as they strive to follow set procedures. When the medic has difficulty finding a good vein, the injection goes shockingly wrong, resulting in a cruel, painful death that leaves everyone shaken.

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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”

Favorite Women-directed Films of 2019

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Here we are, on the very last day of the year, and I have for you my five favorite woman-directed movies of 2019. I was worried that this post was hopelessly late, but then I checked last year’s list and saw that I didn’t write it until January 21, so I’m actually ahead of myself. The truth is that many of the best movies come out during the last few weeks of December, so unless you have screeners, it’s hard to draw up lists like these before the year is over.

Over the past year, I saw 29 new movies directed or written by women, and 18 new movies directed and written by men. With only 29 movies to choose from, I decided to choose only five favorites — which meant I had to leave Little Women off the list. Which was surprising! With all the buzz, I thought for sure I’d adore it, but I’m not sure I like it any better than the 1994 version. I have more to say on that, and will be reviewing it for The Common, but I wanted to give it an honorable mention. Two other movies that also deserve a shout-out are Atlantics and The Farewell.

Before I dive into the list, I want to mention several movies that I didn’t get a chance to see that might have made the list: Fast Color, One Child Nation, Hail Satan?, Little Joe, and Varda by Agnès.

Okay, with those caveats out of the way, here we go, in no particular order, my favorite woman-directed films of 2019 . . .

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Holiday Movies Directed or Written by Women

My love of Christmas movies started when my husband and I first moved in together and we spent our first holiday season together watching cheesy Christmas movies every weekend. Actually, maybe my love of the holiday genre started with It’s A Wonderful Life, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve probably seen it thirty times and it never gets old. I like the low stakes of Christmas stories, the predictability, the winter fashions, and I also appreciate how most holiday movies have an ensemble cast, so you can watch them over and over again and notice all the little moments between the minor players that you may have missed the first time.

This list includes a couple of my favorites, as well as some that I haven’t seen yet and am adding to my list for this year. Enjoy!

bridget-jones-colin-firth-renee-zellwegerBridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Director: Sharon Maguire
Writer: Helen Fielding

This is a personal favorite. The book is hilarious and the film captures its zany energy. Also, it’s perfectly cast, despite worries at the time that Renee Zellweger was not sufficiently British enough to pull it off. I don’t know if it officially falls into the Christmas Movie category, but it starts and ends with holiday parties, so it counts in my book.

Continue reading “Holiday Movies Directed or Written by Women”

December Trailers Round Up

I trust everyone knows that December will bring us Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women. But there are four more women-directed movies coming our way next month:

Litte Joe  Writer & Dir. Jessica Hausner – December 6
A Million Little Pieces
  Dir. Sam Taylor-Johnson – December 6
Portrait of a Lady on Fire  Writer & Dir. Céline Sciamma – December 6
Clemency
  Writer & Dir. Chinonye Chukwu – December 27
Little Women  Writer & Dir. Greta Gerwig – December 25

Trailers after the jump . . .

Continue reading “December Trailers Round Up”

Retrowatch: A League of Their Own

Film and TelevisionA League Of Their Own (1992) ★★★★
Director: Penny Marshall
Writers: Kim Wilson, Kelly Candaele, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel

I had my sister over for Thanksgiving and she wanted to know when I was going to write about A League of Their Own, which we saw together last week at Alamo Drafthouse for a special “champagne screening.” She said, “I saw you making notes . . .”

It’s true, I made notes—and then I lost them, which my sister will tell is typical of me. I wrote them on the back of the paper advertising the drink special: “There’s No Crying in Cocktails,” which is a mix of Maker’s Mark, lemon, sugar, and cava, and which I ordered. It was actually my second cocktail of the night, because my sister and I met before the movie to get a drink at the bar outside of the theater. We sat down next to a group of four women who were clearly going to the same screening as us, because they were all wearing the pink skirted baseball uniforms from the movie. As it happened, we were seated next to them in the theater. My sister asked the woman closest to us when she had last seen the movie, and she said, ‘Oh, a couple of months ago? I watch it all the time.’ The other women had also seen the movie many, many times. It was their comfort watch.

Meanwhile, my sister and I had not seen the movie since 1992, when it was in the theaters. Continue reading “Retrowatch: A League of Their Own”

Frozen II with a Two-Year-Old

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Frozen II
Directors: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
Writers: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Marc Smith, Kristin Anderson-Lopez, and Robert Lopez

Over the weekend, our entire family went to 9:15 a.m. screening packed with Frozen devotees. It was an all-ages show, which probably sounds like hell to many but there was actually a childless couple behind us in line, so I guess it’s not too noisy – or else they really, really wanted to see the sequel to Frozen and couldn’t fit it in at any other time. I have grown to like the all-ages screening, in part because they turn the sound down, but mainly because it’s sweet to hear kids responding to what is on screen, especially a movie like this one, which was For The Fans.

If you want my two-second review, Frozen II was a lot of fun but not a great sequel, on par with Toy Story 2 or even, um, let me see here, I realize I haven’t actually seen a lot of sequels to kids’ movies. My relationship to kids movies is, generally: something to put on while I clean and I need my children to stay in one place. However, I have a soft spot for Frozen. Continue reading “Frozen II with a Two-Year-Old”