A LA VIE

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ALICE THRU THE LOOKING GLASS

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CHEVALIER

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PRINCESS

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UNLOCKING THE CAGE

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MAGGIE’S PLAN

poster Maggie"Maggie" (Greta Gerwig) has a plan: for herself and for everyone else around her. She’s single, living in New York City, with a steady job, and loyal friends. What she doesn’t have is a partner. And what she wants is a baby. So Maggie decides to have a child on her own. But when she begins to connect with a married man, love and life take their twists and turns, as Maggie tries desperately to plan for fate.

Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, Maggie’s Plan hits all the right notes, grounded in real emotion while hitting all of its comedic beats. (JEP: 4/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

“Maggie” (Greta Gerwig) is a bit quirky, but she’s kind and has her life together. Even though she is ready, Maggie hasn’t reached the point in her life where marriage and kids are on the table. But her best friends, “Tony” (Bill Hader)—who Maggie dated briefly in college—and “Felicia” (Maya Rudolph) have reached this point. They are happily married with a son, and Maggie desperately wants what they have.

Well, in all honesty, she desperately wants kids. The love part is not a necessary component of the plan, since Maggie’s decided that she’s incapable of staying in love with one person. So one afternoon at the farmer’s market, Maggie announces to Tony that she’s decided to have a child on her own. Her artificial insemination is scheduled, and she’s found her sperm donor, “Guy” (Travis Fimmel), a mathlete who Maggie and Tony both know from school.

But when Maggie meets “John” (Ethan Hawke), a married professor at the institution where she teaches, it’s safe to say that a wrench is thrown into Maggie’Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 1.30.57 AMs plan. John is unhappy in his marriage to brilliant tenured Columbia professor “Georgette” (Julianne Moore). He is a neglectful father to his two children “Justine” (Mina Sundwall) and “Paul” (Jackson Frazer), focusing his time instead on writing his novel. Maggie, convinced that his marriage is already failing, falls hard and fast for John.

Flash forward an undetermined amount of time, but we assume it’s been a few years from the young girl Maggie carries her hip. It seems to us that Maggie’s plan was brought to fruition, as she laughs with her adorable daughter “Lily” (Ida Rohatyn). But it is not immediately clear if the child is hers alone, or if John is still in the picture. That is until Maggie and Lily walk into their new home, where John is sitting in front of a computer dutifully typing out the same novel he was working on when the couple met.

John and Georgette are divorced. John and Maggie are married. John is still consumed by his novel years later, forcing Maggie to support their small family. What started as an affair turned into much more, but a few years in, Maggie is stuck. She is no longer happy in her marriage, but feels too guilty about the role she played in John’s last unsuccessful marriage to ask him for a divorce. So instead, Maggie crafts a new plan. A plan to get John and Georgette back together, absolving herself of her guilt. But Maggie must come to terms with the fact that planning other people’s lives is not her place, and that sometimes to live the fullest life, you must let go of the plan, letting what will be, be.

Director Rebecca Miller lets her film run on a bit too long, losing her audience for a moment in the third act. But ultimately, she is able to get us back by the end. Filled with great performances from a noteworthy cast, Maggie’s Plan is endearing and thoughtful, Miller artfully blending the film’s unique comedic style with moments grounded in honesty.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (5/23/16)Screen Shot 2016-05-21 at 1.30.47 AM

Top Photo: Maggie's Plan poster.

Middle Photo: Maggie and John grow close as she gives him feedback on his pages for his novel.

Bottom Photo: Maggie sits Georgette down for a chat to explain her new plan.

Photo Credits: Jon Pack

Q: Does Maggie’s Plan pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

Yes, but it only just squeaks by.

Surprisingly, almost all conversations between women in Maggie’s Plan revolve around men…well specifically, one man. The only small conversations Maggie has that stand on their own are the adorable ones between her and her young daughter “Lily” (Ida Rohatyn).

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MARGARITA WITH A STRAW

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 2.06.22 PMShonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw tackles multiple issues through main protagonist, teenage “Laila,” (Kalki Koechelin) an aspiring writer with cerebral palsy. The unique approach to sensitive issues, ranging from disabilities and sexuality to cancer and parenting, is initially intriguing but needs a jolt of energy to keep viewers invested. (BKP: 3/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Laila is a daughter, sister, student, friend and writer who just so happens to have cerebral palsy. Studying writing and music at Delhi University, she falls in love (and gets turned down) by the lead singer of the college’s band. To soften the blow of rejection, she receives a scholarship to attend New York University and moves from India with her mother, “Shubhangini” (Revathy) to start a brand new semester in the United States of America.

Here, she meets two people that change her life completely: attractive young “Jared” (William Moseley) who helps her with her creative writing classes and blind, lesbian activist “Khanum” (Sayani Gupta). Laila happens to fall in love with both of them and discovers her bi-sexuality. Filmmaker Bose aims to show the awkwardness of the sex scenes, particularly between disabled Laila and blind Khanum.

But the relationship that shines throughout Marg Image 2Margarita with a Straw is Laila and her mother, Shubhangini, who reveals she is suffering from a stage four colon cancer relapse. Between the mother’s sickness and Laila’s bi-sexual “coming out,” their relationship hits highs and lows, making their journey the most engaging element of the film.

Kalki Koechelin’s remarkable performance will resonate with every viewer that witnesses this actress’ transformation. Her portrayal not only examines the hardships and emotional struggle of dealing with a disability, but also the struggle of figuring out her identity as a burgeoning young adult.

Had there not been so many issues, one after the other, flying at the audience, Margarita would have had a deeper emotional impact. The net is cast across countless a wide variety of topics (cancer, death, disability, sexuality, academics, etc.) and, yes, most human stories are complex - but these issues seemed better suited as a miniseries or television show rather than fitting into a two-hour feature.  

Writer/director Shonali Bose accomplishes her goal of creating a complex female character. Above all else, this is a coming-of-age story about a young girl struggles to find her identity in a confusing world … and just so happens to be dealing with cerebral palsy. Viewers can learn from Laila and reflect on their own lives, mothers, lovers, friends and most importantly, their own journey of self-discovery.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (5/17/16)

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Top Photo: Kalki Koechelin as “Laila”

Middle Photo: Sayani Gupta as “Khanum” and Kalki Koechelin as “Laila”

Bottom Photo: Revathy as “Shubhangini” and Kalki Koechelin as “Laila”

Photo Credits: ADAPT

Q: Does Phantom of the Theater pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

Absolutely!

Aside from her relationships with the men in her life, almost the entire film passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test, particularly between teenage “Laila” (Kalki Koechelin) and her ailing mother, “Shubhangini” (Revathy).

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THE OTHER SIDE

Capture1Director Roberto Minervini and writer Denise Ping Lee create a raw, hard-to-watch picture about life in a poor Louisiana town of West Monroe. This depiction of America’s lower class is jarring, bizarre hybrid of documentary and feature that will leave your soul completely drained. (BKP: 3/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Viewers initially meet “Mark Kelley” (as himself) in his au naturel state, living his miserable, crystal meth-addicted life in West Monroe, Louisiana. Director Roberto Minervini succeeds in painting a picture of this ramshackle town, ranging with degenerates from pregnant strippers on drugs to a hateful group of political commentators in wife-beaters.

Although the narrative is unrelated to Darren Aronofsky’s acclaimed drug-utopia film, Requiem for a Dream, the tone and feel is eerily similar. Bearing witness to the poor decisions of these people is difficult to digest and makes you want to walk out of a theater or turn of the television and make you reflect on this terrifying aspect of our country.

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Aside from crystal-meth loving Mark, the story features war veterans who spend their time discussing the impending doom of the apocalypse. These zealots spew hatred for the leaders of the country, particularly President Barack Obama, and fear that their guns will soon be taken away. If only they put half as much energy into dentistry as they did for the Second Amendment.

This off-putting documentary is completely opposite of enjoyable, yet, I understand the purpose of it. Minervini and Ping Lee are doing something admirable, actually. They are shedding a light on a culture of the United States of America, most notably in the deep South, that exists and typically overlooked (although I understand why).

Minervini and Ping Lee accomplish their goal, no matter how laborious the film is to get through, and use the town of West Monroe to the inform audience of the bigger picture. They examine the incompetence that plagues people in these rural towns, full of Confederacy-loving racists and scum-of-the-earth drug addicts. But for the average person who witnesses enough ignorance reported on the 24-hour news cycle, The Other Side might be one to skip. To quote one of the older men in the film, “We done paid our dues.”

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (5/17/16)

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Middle Photo: “Uncle Jim”

Bottom Photo: Citizens of West Monroe, Louisiana

Photo Credits: Agat Films & Cie, Okta Film, Arte France Cinema

Q: Does The Other Side pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Not a chance.

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SONG OF LAHORE

song of lahore topFilmmakers Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken bring audiences an inspirational documentary about the power of music and the bond it creates between cultures.

Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan, has rich history as one of the country’s artistic hubs. But when bans were placed upon music and musical expression starting in 1977, the city began to lose its culture, its identity. So a group of Pakistani musicians decided to do something about it, earning worldwide renown for their take on Jazz and bringing music back to Pakistan. (JEP: 4.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

In the city of Lahore, music was a defining part of their culture until 1977 when music was banned as the new regime posited that music is forbidden in Islam and, therefore, the work of all musicians is sinful. With this ban, Lahore’s film industry was shut down and musical concerts were no longer held as audience numbers declined. When the Taliban came into power, music further disappeared from Lahore’s culture as musicians were beaten for practicing their craft, and instruments were smashed and burned.

But generations of musicians still existed—albeit quietly and secretively—and they continued to play in their soundproof rooms until Izzat Majeed and his fellow musicians decided to do something about it. These men were losing their culture and something had to be done. As fellow musician Nijat Ali explains, “We are living in a society that’s forgotten who they are.” Majeed wanted people to remember. So in the early 2000s, he founded Sachal Studios with the intent of bringing musical identity back to his city.

As local Pakistani audiences had disappeared, these musicians found song of lahore middlereason to bring western influences into their music. When their rendition of “Take Five” went viral and earned worldwide attention when broadcast on BBC, new life was breathed into Pakistani music. Opportunities started to present themselves to this small Pakistani orchestra, whose goal of keeping their disappearing culture alive through music, was finally being seen.

When the orchestra receives an invitation to play with Wynton Marsalis—artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and winner of nine Grammy awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Music—and his jazz band in New York City, the musicians of Lahore seize the opportunity, getting to play once again for a live audience who applaud their craft. Once in New York, these musicians from two different countries and cultures must learn to play as one. But the music is never forced, bridging a gap between peoples as a shared bond.

Filmmakers Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken immerse their audience in the music of Pakistan, following Majeed and his fellow musicians as they create, play, and come together for their music. When the musicians of Lahore sit down to perform for their audience at the world-renowned Lincoln Center in New York City, the filmmakers do not cut away from the performance. Instead, they allow us as viewers to watch the incredible performance in real time as if we too were members of the audience at Lincoln Center.

Song of Lahore is moving, inspirational, and eye opening. The courage of these musicians and their dedication to preserving music in their culture is to be applauded, and the intimate way filmmakers Obaid-Chinoy and Schocken handle their subject must be applauded as well.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (5/20/16)song of lahore bottomTop Photo: Song of Lahore poster.

Middle Photo: Flutist Baqir Abbas rehearses with his fellow musicians.

Bottom Photo: The musicians of Lahore come together with Wynton Marsalis and renowned Jazz musicians to perform at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Photo Credits: Broad Green Pictures

Q: Does Song of Lahore pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

No.

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WEINER

GayPrideParadeTimely documentary about the implosion of Antony Weiner's promising political career, first as a Congressman from Brooklyn's 9th District and then as a candidate for mayor of New York City.

After six years as an aide to Chuck Schumer (then serving his own stint representing the 9th), Weiner became a member of the New York City Council in 1991. Then, when Schumer ran for the Senate in 1998, Weiner stepped up to his House seat. A passionate and articulate spokesman for progressive causes, Weiner had many friends (like Jon Stewart and Bill Maher) who were happy to invite him on their TV shows.

So when mediagenic Weiner married long-time Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin (in a 2010 ceremony in which Former President Bill Clinton personally officiated), his future seemed set... But it all came crashing down less than one year later in a Twitter scandal.

Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg, two relative novices with incredible access and even greater patience, were "flies on the wall" as all this unfolded. Their documentary has already received multiple awards (including the Grand Jury Prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival), awards that were rightly won during the editing phase when they surely took a mountain of moments and turned them into this stunning 96 minutes cautionary tale about our times. (JLH: 4.5/5)

WithHuma

Top Photo: Anthony Weiner draws cheers as he marches in NYC's Gay Pride Parade.

Bottom Photo: Weiner and Abedin face hostile crowds once the scandal erupts.

Photo Credits: Kriegman/Steinberg

Q: Does Weiner pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? GreenA2016

This is a stretch, but I am giving it a pass.

There are definitely scenes in which Huma Abedin works with members of the campaign team (many of whom are women) to define her own role as candidate's wife, fund raiser, and potential First Lady.

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