Tag Archives: culture

Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said opens tomorrow

17 Sep

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.

National Park Experience: A Film Series on Kickstarter

30 Aug

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!

Be Natural: The untold story of Alice Guy-Blache

21 Aug

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

Henrietta Bulkowski on Kickstarter

19 Aug

As have so many before me, I recently fell in love…with Kickstarter.  It’s such a fine resource for filmmakers and it’s so fascinating to watch new film projects come together.  I love how the site lets me be a part of the process by kicking in a few bucks.  Frankly, crowdfunding gives me hope for the future of film because it takes the funding process out of the hands of studio execs and puts it in the hands of Internet randoms like myself.  If you wonder about its possibilities for women’s film and women’s concerns, just take a look at this stopmotion short project called Henrietta Bulkowski, directed by Rachel Johnson.  Be sure to take a look at her earlier short, The Toll Collector.  I love how that one digs down deep into the soil of women’s insecurities about their own bodies using detailed animation that allows us to get lost in the toll collector’s little world.  I expect great things to come of Johnson’s new short!

If you want to support women’s films, Kickstarter is a great way to do it, and Henrietta Bulkowski is a great place to start.

Trailer: Les Miserables

10 Oct

Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

Who’s getting excited for Les Miserables?  If not, then maybe you haven’t yet seen this 4-minute “Extended Look” at the film, now set to open on Christmas Day.  The film stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, and Eddie Redmayne as Marius.  I haven’t even seen this yet, but my money is still on Hathaway for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  Read more.

Film Review: Chicken With Plums is filled with sadness and wit

9 Oct

Chicken With Plums by Marjane Satrapi

Chicken With Plums is the second film by writer-director duo Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, after their brilliant, animated film Persepolis, a coming-of-age tale based on Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel.  Chicken With Plums is also based on a graphic novel by Satrapi, but it is set earlier, in 1958, pre-revolution Tehran, and its forlorn protagonist is musician Nasser Ali (Mathieu Amalric). During an argument, his wife (Maria de Medeiros) has smashed his beloved violin, and though he searches, no other instrument will allow him to call forth the same sound.  Thus, he does what any reasonable man would do in such a situation:  he decides to kill himself.

Nasser Ali takes to his bed, resigned to stay there until the Angel of Death (Edouard Baer) comes for him.  At first glance it seems a dubious plot, but as the film takes us through moments in Nasser Ali’s past — his childhood, his unhappy marriage, and his earlier interludes with a lost love (Golshifteh Farahani) — it becomes clear why Nasser Ali has lost his will to live.

Chicken With Plums is the story of a tragic life, and it doesn’t offer solutions to its sadness.  (We learn early on that our hero will indeed die.)  It simply revels in it.

And it does so beautifully. Nasser Ali’s life story is told with all of the dark comedic wit that was present in Persepolis.  In fact, humor so permeates this film that in many scenes one nearly forgets that the whole thing is about one man’s unfulfilled, wasted life.  Pieces of his story and of the stories of his wife and children are presented one by one, and in non-chronological order.  In some fun flash-forwards, for example, we are shown the future lives of his two small, adorable children, which will turn out to be amusingly worthless.  Each story is so engaging that its chronological order seems unimportant.  Still, it’s a delight at the end when the entire timeline becomes clear and everything fits together perfectly, which is more than you can say for a lot of non-linear storytelling.

The real beauty of the film, though, is in its lovely use of stylized animation.  Many of the backdrops are not so much shot as drawn.  Moments of surreal imagery dot the film throughout, especially artful in a dancing plume of cigarette smoke and in a scene where Azreal, the Angel of Death, visits Nasser Ali in his bedroom.  The mix of live-action and animation is so unique and itself makes the film worth seeing.

Final Verdict:  Audiences that are addicted to the feel-good flick may not take to this film, largely because its rich emotions deviate so fully from the sunny artifice of Hollywood.  Still, though Chicken With Plums tells a tragic story of loss and resignation, its brooding humor will charm fans of Persepolis and likely win new converts to Satrapi and Paronnaud’s unique style of storytelling.