Revisiting Frances Ha

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I re-watched Frances Ha the other night and it’s as fresh as a daisy despite being made seven years ago. I was a little worried that it wouldn’t hold up because I remembered its plot as being somewhat slight, focused on the travails of Frances Ha (Greta Gerwig) a late-blooming twenty-something who hasn’t quite figured out her path in life — or as she puts it, “I’m not a real person yet.” In our exhausting, post-Trump world, where we seem constantly to be in the midst of environmental and human rights catastrophes, I wasn’t sure the story would feel urgent enough. But I forgot how funny and self-aware this movie is.

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Movie Diary: May – July

I’ve been working on a novel so I haven’t had as much time for reviewing, but I have been watching. Here’s a quick round up of what I’ve seen over the past few months . . .

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KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE
Director: Rachel Lears

I decided to watch this on Monday night in solidarity for AOC, who had deal with Trump tweeting racist comments at her all weekend. When it was over I felt like Trump’s tweets can’t even touch her, she’s too powerful, too gifted. She just doesn’t take the bait. I believe her response to Trump was something like, “he’s attacking me personally because he can’t defend his policies.” It’s incredible to see such clarity in someone so young. In this documentary, you meet AOC when she is just beginning her campaign, and even then, she has the ability to communicate in an authentic way very quickly and off the cuff.

I feel bad because I’m not mentioning the other women in this film, who also ran for Congress: Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearengin, and Amy Vilela. They were all in equally difficult races, and unfortunately, they did not win, but seemed poised to unseat someone if they try again. I highly recommend this one for when you’re feeling discouraged by the Trump administration or if you just need to have a good cry.

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Long Shot

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I saw Long Shot last weekend, when it opened, and really enjoyed it, but I’ve been struggling since then to write a review. On the one hand, it was the easygoing, funny, romantic comedy I’ve been waiting for. Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron are both charming and fun to watch. I laughed a lot and never felt bored. On the other hand, there was something amiss about the world they occupied, an alternate version of D.C. that was sometimes depicted realistically, sometimes satirically, and sometimes seemed to be a part of a TV-D.C. whose qualities I hadn’t yet learned. I wasn’t there for the sharp political satire, so I mostly didn’t mind, but some of the nonsensical aspects of the setting did make the characters less believable–and that made their romance a little less believable too.

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My Favorite Movies Written and Directed by Women in 2018

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This post is long overdue. First I got sucked into a holiday vortex and then all the viruses came to roost in our household. The little one would get sick, then the bigger one, then the bigger one, then the little one, then the little one . . . meanwhile, I got some variation of everything. I’ve done a lot of reading but have barely watched any movies. I have, however, had a chance to think back on the movies I saw last year.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that for the past year I’ve made a special effort to see movies written or directed by women. After the Harvey Weinstein revelations, I felt so sickened by the movie industry that I wanted to change my viewing habits to see more films made by women—not only to support women, but for my own viewing pleasure.

In 2017, before I made any special effort to see women-made films, only 9 of the 28 movies I saw were written or directed by women. This year, I watched 43 movies, a mix of old and new, but mostly new. Of those 43 films, 29 were written or directed by women. So, that’s a big improvement over last year! Still, given that I only saw around 30 movies written or directed by women, it seems a little too easy do a top ten list of film. There’s not a lot of discernment when you’re choosing the top third. Instead, I’ve decided to make two top three lists: Top Three Films Directed by Women, and Top Three Films Written by Women.

As I was putting together these lists, I asked myself how much they would differ from a top three list of all movies, regardless of gender, and I will admit that First Reformed, Roma, and Sorry To Bother You might have edged out some of the films on these lists. But, these films would definitely make any of my top ten lists—and that’s one of the reasons I limited myself to three films. One last caveat: I never got to see Happy As Lazzarro, Zama, and Let the Sunshine In, and judging from the critical response, these were great films that might have also made the list.

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Review: SHIRKERS

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Writer & Director: Sandi Tan

In 1992, at age 19, novelist Sandi Tan wrote and starred in Shirkers, a feature-length road movie shot on the streets of SingaporeThe title was inspired by Tan’s idea that in life, there were people who were neither movers nor shakers, but shirkers—those who evade responsibility and duty, escaping the confines of society. It starred Tan as S., a murderer and kidnapper on a mysterious mission to save children. One of Tan’s points of inspiration was J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The plot didn’t matter as much as the mood, which Tan cultivated through carefully chosen locations, props, costumes, and music. Tan hired a friend to compose a soundtrack on his electric guitar, and hand-made many of her props, including a colorful board game that S. uses to plot her kidnappings. S.’s costume was a pink sailor shirt and blue knee-length shorts; she carried an old-fashioned camera on a strap, as well as a leather suitcase. “When I was eighteen,” Tan explains, “I thought you found freedom by building worlds inside your head.”

To read more follow this link to The Common

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.

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Review: Private Life

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Writer & Director: Tamara Jenkins

One of the downsides of being an amateur reviewer with small children at home is that I usually see movies after they’ve been released. Though I try to avoid reviews of movies that I know I’m going to see, it was hard to avoid the buzz on Private Life, Tamara Jenkin’s first feature in eleven years about a couple dealing with infertility. It seemed like every podcast I listened to had something positive to say about it, extolling the quality of the writing and the storytelling and the splendid characterization and the wonderful acting. I second all that, but in the end, I had trouble getting into this movie. My attention wandered. A half-hour in, my husband and I both remarked that it seemed like a lot more time had passed, but not because it was slowly paced. Instead we felt like we had already been dragged through so much pain and indecision. The screenplay of Private Life is very carefully constructed, and I wondered if Jenkins was trying to create in the viewer some of the feelings of frustration and detachment that her characters are experiencing.  Continue reading “Review: Private Life”