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

March Movies

I recently updated my list of 2020 movies written and directed by women and wanted to highlight this month’s selections because it ended up included a long list of movies premiering at South By Southwest.

Of the March releases, I have already seen First Cow — my review will be posted in a few days at The Common — and have plan to see Crip Camp next week. I’m also hoping to see Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, a movie about two teenage girls traveling in order to get an abortion, and my seven-year-old son is super-excited for the live-action Mulan, so I know I’ll be going to that, too.

Click through for a full list of March movies written or directed by women . . .

Continue reading “March Movies”

Review: Emma.

emma 2020Emma (2020) ★★★1/2
Directed by Autumn de Wilde
Written by Eleanor Catton, based on the novel by Jane Austen

I saw this a couple of nights ago and it was pure delight. My only regret is that I went to see it by myself and not with my husband or with a friend. I left it in a cheery mood, buoyed by the playful costumes, bucolic scenery, intelligent dialogue, and of course, the romantic ending when everyone is happily paired up — except, maybe, for Jane Fairfax. I felt bad for her, and I don’t remember her character from previous versions of Emma, though I must confess that I have never read Emma, so I don’t know if she is from the book or not.

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Review: The Assistant

the assistantThe Assistant (2019) ★★★★
Written & Directed by Kitty Green

When I wrote the heading for this review I thought to myself wow, am I really giving this movie four stars? It’s the unusual instance when using a star rating system is clarifying rather than frustrating, because my reasons for rating it as less than four stars were entirely superficial. In terms of its production, The Assistant it is a “small” movie, but in terms of its themes and emotional impact, it’s huge. It takes place over a short time period — one day — and involves only a handful of people in a few rooms, with its focus on Jane (Julia Garner), a junior assistant to a film producer. Very little happens and there is hardly any dialogue; there’s only one passage in the film in which two characters engage in extended back-and-forth discussion. All other verbal communication is limited to short or one-sided phone conversations, emails, and eavesdropping.

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Review: To All The Boys P.S. I Still Love You

To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love YouTo All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You (2020) ★★
Directed by Michael Fimognari
Written by Sofia Alvarez and J. Mills Goodloe, based on the novel by Jenny Han

It’s not a good sign when, watching a sequel, you begin to wonder what it was you liked about the original material. I went back to my review of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before  and saw that I compared it to the Great British Baking Show — high praise, indeed! I was new to the world of Lara Jean and thought there was something sweet and unpretentious about her character. I also really liked Lana Condor, the actor who plays Lara Jean. She’s just as delightful in this sequel, but she can’t rescue the material, which gets bogged down in a lot of high school logistics and relationship drama. Also — and it pains me to say this, because he’s like a Mark Ruffalo Jr. —  but I think this second installment reveals the limits of Noah Centineo’s acting abilities. He’s perfectly cast as the unattainable love object in the original, but as a real person in a relationship, he comes off as a shallow performer. He just can’t convey the complexity and vulnerability that is needed.

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The Women Who Won!

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Last night was a pretty good Oscars for the few women who did get nominated. I’m disappointed — and a little surprised — that Greta Gerwig didn’t win best adapted screenplay, but her costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, did win — a well-deserved win, I thought, because her costumes were so expressive of each character.

As I predicted, ‘Joker’ composer Hildur Guðnadóttir won for her score for Joker –and was the first woman in 20 years to do so.  (L.A. Times)

I was really happy that that American Factory won best documentary, which was co-directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. That was easily one of the best movies I saw last year. The footage they got, especially with factory’s management, was extraordinary.

In the short documentary category, Carol Dysinger won for Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), which I haven’t seen but am eager to catch up with. 

Finally, Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh won for production design of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. 

The Women Who Did Get Nominated for Oscars

There’s been a lot of talk about who didn’t get nominated for the Oscars and should have, and while I’m as disappointed as anyone that Greta Gerwig didn’t get a director nod, she did get nominated for best adapted screenplay, and her costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, was nominated as well. So those are two women that I’m rooting for. (In fact I wrote a review that is pretty much an argument for why Gerwig should win for best adaptation.)

Looking over the other nominations, I noticed the usual gender breakdown, with a lot of women in the art department, but hardly any in the cinematography, special effects, and editing categories — though I was happy to see that this blog’s namesake, Thelma Schoonmaker, was nominated for editing The Irishman.

Here are some other women to watch for this weekend. This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the female nominees (though it’s close), just the nominees whose work I am familiar with from the past year in movies . . .

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Review: Taylor Swift: Miss Americana

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Miss Americana (2020) ★★★
Directed by Lana Wilson

For a few years, my friends teased me because one evening in 2009, after I’d been writing for a few days and hadn’t paid much attention to the news, I asked if anyone could fill me in on whatever it was that had happened between Kanye West and Taylor Swift earlier in the week. Um, yeah. They could fill me in. Pretty much anyone I talked to at the bar could have filled me in at that point. I’d thought I was bringing up a piece of light gossip, but my friends quickly informed me that this was a world historical Internet Event, one so engulfing that even President Obama had weighed in.

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January Movie Diary

I spent most of last month trying to finish up a revision of my novel but as usual was waylaid by winter colds and family issues. (As I write this, my son is home sick for the second day in a row.) In the meantime, I caught up with some movies from 2019 that I missed. Here are some quick reviews:

Wild-RoseWild Rose (2019) ★★★1/2
Directed by Tom Harper
Written by Nicole Taylor

At first I was a little underwhelmed by this movie, but the music and the writing won me over. The story is more complex than it at first seems and I really fell in love with Jessie Buckley’s voice, especially her rendition of “Peace In This House.”

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Gerwig’s Wonderfully Literary Adaptation is Unexpectedly Faithful to the Original — Including the Ending

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I have friends who cried their way through Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, and I expected that I would, too, but I spent much of my first viewing in a state of mild agitation. I had re-read the novel a few days before seeing the film, and was distracted as I tried to figure out the mechanics of Gerwig’s complex temporal structure. Little Women was originally published as two books: Little Women and Good Wives, and Gerwig braids together these two volumes, going back and forth between past and present. As with Gerwig’s debut feature Lady Bird, the pace is galloping. Not only are there two separate timelines, Gerwig cuts rapidly between characters and locations within each timeline.

Read the rest over at The Common . . .