Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said opens tomorrow

17 Sep Enough Said

In Holofcener’s new feature, Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a divorced mother who meets James Gandolfini’s Albert.  They begin to fall for each other just as Eva realizes that her new beau is none other than the despised ex-husband of her new client, Marianne, played by Catherine Keener (one of the things I like about Holofcener is that her films often give us another chance to hear Keener’s adorable rasp).  As Eva listens to Marianne’s complaints about her ex, the budding relationship between Eva and Albert begins to wither.

Holofcener’s 2006 Friends With Money won the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award and was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, as was her 2010 dramedy Please GiveEnough Said, which offers fans one last chance to see Gandolfini onscreen, just premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and looks poised to collect awards as well.

What’s more, Claudia Puig — one of my favorite film critics — loved it, calling Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini “the year’s most likable on-screen couple.”  That’s more than enough to make me excited about this one.

Haiffa Al-Mansour’s Wadjda opens in the United States this week

15 Sep Wadjda movie, Saudi Arabia, Haiffa Al-Mansour

Wadjda is the first feature from award-winning director Haifaa Al-Mansour, the first woman from Saudi Arabia to direct a feature-length film.  It follows the story of a Saudi girl who enters her school’s Koran-reciting competition because she wants to use the prize money to buy herself a bicycle.  However, this is a country where bicycle riding is frowned upon for girls.  Since premiering last year at the Venice Film Festival, Wadjda has been winning awards at film festivals all over the world, including the Audience Award for Best International Feature at the Los Angeles Film Festival.  Although Wadjda is the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, it won’t be playing there any time soon.  Movie theaters are banned in the country.

Jill Soloway’s Afternoon Delight expands to more theaters today

13 Sep Afternoon Delight movie

Written and directed by Jill Soloway, Afternoon Delight is the story of an L.A. hipster housewife who becomes obsessed with “saving” a stripper by hiring her as a live-in nanny.  This sounds like a fine idea. 

Afternoon Delight premiered at Sundance and stars Kathryn Hahn, Juno Temple, Josh Radnor, and Jane Lynch.  It’s in limited release and opens to more theaters today.  Click here to see if it’s playing near you.

Anne Fontaine’s Adore now playing in theaters

11 Sep Adore

Adore (directed by Anne Fontaine, who directed Coco Before Chanel, starring Audrey Tautou) premiered at Sundance last January.  It’s about two women, played by Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, who engage in romantic trysts with each other’s teenage sons.  It opened in limited release in the U.S. last weekend, and this Friday it opens in several more cities.  Click here to see if it’s playing at a theater near you.

National Park Experience: A Film Series on Kickstarter

30 Aug National Park Experience

Directed by Amy Marquis, this project funds the first of ten short films following the personal stories of visitors whose lives have been changed by America’s National Parks.  The films are being timed to celebrate the upcoming 2016 National Parks Service centennial.

As explained on the project’s Kickstarter page, it looks like they’ll start with this one:

Love in the Tetons.* This September, something really special is happening in Grand Teton National Park: A wedding. But not just any wedding. The groom is a young Mexican-American from south-central Los Angeles, who had no connection with nature until an urban-youth program introduced him to the national parks and completely changed the trajectory of his life. The bride hails from a long line of migrant farm workers in Texas, but in 2006, at age 21, she left home for the first time to visit Kenai Fjord National Park in Alaska– an experience that empowered her to break out of the migrant-worker cycle. Today, she serves as both an interpretive ranger and the youth and diversity outreach coordinator in Grand Teton National Park. We’ll embed ourselves with their families, dig into stories about the generations of hard work and sacrifice that helped guide them to this special day in the Tetons, and reveal an important new vision of the “American Dream”– one that blooms out of our living, breathing national parks.”

Click here to go to the Kickstarter page for National Park Experience and support women filmmakers!

Short Term 12 opens this week

26 Aug SHORT-TERM-12-Posters

Just returned from Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival, where my favorite feature was Short Term 12, starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr., and Kaitlyn Dever, and directed by Destin Cretton.  I’m not the only one smitten with this little gem.  It won the Audience Award at SXSW earlier this year, so it’s no surprise that it was such a hit in Birmingham, where it sold out and garnered an encore screening.

In a film about a foster care facility for teens, you expect to be hit over the head with the tragedies of a society that is often unable to protect its youth from their own dysfunctional families.  You expect to cry, but you don’t expect to laugh or leave the theater feeling happy and inspired.   To call this film “light-hearted” would be wrong.  It’s not a comedy.  Still, it takes the small moments of humor that occur among the staff and teens — a witty comment here, a break in a tense situation there — and turns our expectations upside down.

At the heart of this story is the change that sullen new admit Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) sparks in Grace (Brie Larson), the staff member who seems to be the glue of the facility.  We don’t see directly the abuse these kids have received at the hands of unfit parents; instead we witness the intimate aftermath – a young man still angry at his mother, a staff member unable to open up to those closest to her about her own past.  Sometimes the facility looks chaotic, but after a while you realize that so often, that is exactly what the healing process looks like.  Short Term 12 doesn’t sugar-coat anything, but it is such a hopeful film, one that tells us that kids can recover, that they’re not alone, and that there’s hope for a happy, thriving adulthood after a childhood of pain.

Brie Larson is getting a lot of attention for her starring role as Grace, and she will probably get some deserved nominations.  (You may recognize her as daughter Kate from United States of Tara.)  Yet I was most intrigued by Keith Stanfield, who plays Marcus, a seventeen-year-old who writes his own hip-hop lyrics and knows he must leave the facility upon his next birthday.  Stanfield has such a presence onscreen, not to mention the kind of eyes that would make for a fine romantic lead.  He’s definitely one to watch, and I hope to see him in more films.

Short Term 12 Brie Larson and Keith Stanfield

Playing now in L.A. and New York, Short Term 12 opens nationwide this Friday, August 30th, and releases to more theaters Sept. 6th.  Click here for a list of locations.  Don’t miss this one.  It will hold a spot in the list of the best movies of 2013.

Be Natural: The untold story of Alice Guy-Blache

21 Aug BeNatural_1

By now you may have heard of this one.  It’s the documentary project on Alice Guy-Blache, who in 1896 became the world’s first female director (and one of the world’s first filmmakers, period).  She created her own movie studio and made over 1000 films over the next twenty years, pioneering film technology and developing techniques such as the close-up.  Yet she has been lost to history, as have so many of the women who trailblazed the film industry in its earliest years.

Now a couple of filmmakers, Pamela Green and Jarik van Slujis, are raising money on Kickstarter to tell Alice’s story in a documentary feature film.  They have raised over $70,000 but they need $200,000 for the project to get made.  They have five days to go in their Kickstarter campaign, and if they don’t raise the rest of the $200,000 in that time, they will forfeit the $70,000 already pledged.  Now is a great time to get yourself over to Kickstarter and throw in a few bucks for this incredibly important project!

Be Natural:  The untold story of Alice Guy-Blache on Kickstarter

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