AUDRIE & DAISY

audrie-daisy-posterAudrie & Daisy is a disturbing, heartbreaking, necessary Netflix documentary from husband-wife co-directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk. Extremely timely in the wake of Stanford rapist Brock Turner’s release from prison, the filmmakers follow the cases of two rape victims and the painful impact that modern technology had on their already-traumatic experiences. (GEP: 4/5)

Review by Social Media Manager Georgiana E. Presecky

Daisy Coleman tells the story of her assault to the documentarians, taking them through the night of her rape and the years that followed step by step.

Audrie Pott couldn’t do that. She killed herself when she was 15, a week after classmates at a party drew on her naked body with Sharpies, assaulted her and posted pictures of it online.

Their stories are told side by side, sharing similarities that thousands of victims are likely familiar with but uncomfortable sharing because of the shame associated with sexual violence. Both Audrie and Daisy are proof of that; or, more accurately, the disgusting insults and threats they were met with following their assaults are proof of that.

Cohen and Shenk shed light not only on the painful details of the victims’ abuse, but also the terrible aftershocks that affected both the girls and their families. Interviews with parents, friends and siblings are just emotional enough to show that behind every sexual assault victim are a dozen other faces whose lives are irrevocably hurt and changed from cases like this.

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Lies, insults, shame and outrage associated with victims are thankfully never treated as plot devices. The girls’ stories are told chronologically and matter-of-factly - the emotions, discomfort, pain and frustration that it evokes in viewers follow naturally.

What sets Audrie & Daisy apart from the headlines about sexual assault on college campuses and in small communities is the human story it tells. These two girls have lives, histories and families that define them – their sexual assault doesn’t. Their abuse doesn’t. The names they are called and the things that people say about them do not. Behind these horrifying tales of defilement and pain are home videos, framed pictures on bedroom walls and family members who love and cherish them. That is what defines them, and Cohen and Shenk make sure viewers know that these girls are so much more than statistics.

Audrie was so belittled and beaten down that she no longer believed life was worth living. Daisy wants others to know that it is.

Thanks to the accessibility of Netflix and the current national conversation about sexual assault, these parallel stories will hopefully help people who feel too afraid to speak out or take action against their abusers. Isn’t that what stories are for? No matter how seemingly sad or hopeless they might seem, they just might create positive change by making others feel comforted in knowing they aren’t alone.

For that and for its powerful message, Audrie & Daisy is worth watching.

© Georgiana E. Presecky FF2 Media (9/24/16)

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Middle Photo: Social media played a disturbing role in Audrie Pott's sexual assault case, which led to her eventual suicide.

Bottom Photo: Daisy Coleman tells the story of being raped at the age of 14.

Photo Credits: Netflix

Q: Does Audrie & Daisy pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Yes. While a majority of the documentary focuses on the victims and their abusers, it also sends a clear message that Audrie & Daisy are human beings first. They were both repeatedly called "liars" and "sluts," painting a clear picture of the current stigma surrounding sexual assault, predominantly for female victims.

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BEAUTY & THE BEAST (2014)

Opens tomorrow (9/23/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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CHICKEN PEOPLE

Opens tomorrow (9/23/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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THE DRESSMAKER

Opens tomorrow (9/23/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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GENERATION STARTUP

Opens tomorrow (9/23/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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THE JAZZ LOFT ATWES

whoshootsgeneFull Title: The Jazz Loft according to W. Eugene Smith

It took twelve years of dedication to bring this phenomenal film to fruition, and every moment of the 87 minute runtime is pure perfection.

WNYC New York public radio personality Sara Fishko achieves behind-the-camera immortality in her first at bat as a filmmaker (both writer and director). In truth, the best title for this doc is really "Gene Smith's Jazz Loft according to Sara Fishko." (JLH: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Media Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner

W. Eugene Smith? Gene Smith? Photographer? Not that I'm an expert in photography, but still, I know my way around the middle of the 20th Century and I never heard of this guy.

Then Sara Fishko brings me into Gene Smith's digs at 821 6th Ave in Manhattan (circa 1960), and again and again, I see prints of a photograph on the wall that floods my mind with sweet memories. The photo is called The Walk to Paradise Garden. Gene Smith shot it in 1946. Here is Gene's memory of the shoot for in a piece for Life magazine:

"Pat saw something in the clearing, he grasped Juanita by the hand and they hurried forward. While I followed my children into the undergrowth and the group of taller trees—how they were delighted at every little discovery!—and observed them, I suddenly realized that at this moment, in spite of everything, in spite of all the wars and all I had gone through that day, I wanted to sing a sonnet to life and to the courage to go on living it." 

In 1955, Edward Steichen assembled a collection of photographs for The Museum of Modern Art which became one of the most successful photo exhibits of all time. Soon after, these 503 images by 273 photographers working in 69 countries was published in book form as The Family of Man. That book was a treasured part of my childhood, and I am willing to bet that many other Boomers grew up with it too. The Walk to Paradise Garden was the final image in The Family of Man, immortalized forever on the very last page. thefamilyjacket

Now, of course, Sara Fishko has me in the palm of her hand. I want to know more about Gene Smith, and wow, does she have a story to tell.

No surprise, but much as he undoubtedly loved his three kids, Gene Smith was not much of a father (and even less of a husband). He was as tormented as he was talented, and although she never gives a clinical diagnosis, it's pretty clear that he suffered from what we would now call Bipolar Disorder (aka Manic Depressive Illness). In other words, sometimes Gene Smith was up, Up, UP, working on prints for days on end with no food and less sleep. Other days he was DOWN, Down, down, hanging around his loft listening to the musicians who streamed in and out on a continuous basis for the better part of a decade.

Whatever money he had, Smith invested in cameras, tape recorders, and supplies. He sat in his window overlooking Manhattan's "flower district" for hours on end, shooting "ordinary" street scenes of tremendous cumulative poignancy. He drilled through the floorboards and captured conversations on the fly as well as unparalleled musical moments. Suddenly there is Thelonius Monk working day-after-day with Hall Overton on what eventually becomes the famous session at Town Hallmonkth

Fishko has it all. In fact, the miracle is how she ever managed to take Smith's enormous legacy of images, sounds, and words, and distill all of them into a film so lucid and compelling. I honestly don't know how she did it, I'm just thrilled she did!

© Jan Lisa Huttner (9/24/16) FF2 Media

What to do after you have seen TJL? Visit Amazon and order:

The Thelonious Monk Orchestra at Town Hall

The Jazz Loft Project by Sam Stephenson

jazzloftjacketQ1: Does The Jazz Loft pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Nope. No Way. There are very few women in The Jazz Loft and the women that do appear, talk only about Gene and the guys. They never talk to or about one another. Not such a surprise for a film set mainly in the late '50s... And so it goes.

Do we ever learn the name of the mother of the children The Walk to Paradise Garden, let alone how long they were married, what happened to her after he moved out, or any of that jazz? No, we do not. But this time it doesn't bother me. This time I know "this" isn't about any of "that."

Q2: So why not a 5?

Well, I do have one quibble. There are many wonderful shots of Gene Smith (see top), but Fishko never tells us who took them. Did Smith somehow manage to take photos of himself? If so, why? Was someone else in the loft shooting him while he was shooting street scenes from his window? If so, who? If I knew the answer, I would rest complete.

But hey, 4.5 is a damn high rating for a first time filmmaker... Right? Of course, right 🙂

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Photos from the WNYC online press kit and Amazon.com.

 

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MY BLIND BROTHER

imagesNick Kroll stars as a struggling singleton in the shadow of his overachieving blind brother (Adam Scott). Writer/Director Sophie Goodheart manages to tell a sweet, funny love story using a common plot device of two guys, a girl … and a lake instead of a pizza place. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Managing Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Cain and Abel. Stefan and Damon. Even Drake and Josh. If you look to ancient history or Nickelodeon, you will find an audience who finds the stories of brothers fascinating. Why else would Supernatural be entering its 12th season on The CW?

In My Blind Brother, Goodheart creates a pair of brothers who are equally intriguing. There’s 40-something “Bill,” (Kroll) a self-proclaimed lazy man who would rather watch television than guide his blind brother, “Robbie” (Scott) to the finish line of a marathon. But he does. With each new challenge Robbie embarks on, loyal brother Bill is right there next to him. So, what happens when your disabled and selfish sibling hogs the spotlight? You hit the bars.

Bill meets weepy stranger, “Rose,” (Jenny Slate) a grieving mess from the sudden death of her boyfriend. She wants to make her life purposeful, dedicating herself for the betterment of others. But first, she drinks. The two hit it off and an a potential romance turns into a one-night stand, forcing Bill back to square one. As fate would have it, they see each other again when Robbie introduces his new running partner and guide-person: Rose. Uh-oh.

The awkwardly funny and angst-filled love d6e77e20-6fc3-11e6-af52-59361ffd97eb_20160831_myblindbrother_trailertriangle is set in full force as Bill tries to hide his feelings for his brother’s new girlfriend, all while the three painstakingly train for a blind swim across the lake.

Adam Scott plays the perfect blind brother, subtly acting in ways that would only be noticeable to those who disdain cocky athletes or passive aggressive “bros.” Kroll and Slate play the straighter characters, both grieving over past mistakes and uncertain futures. Nobody is over-the-top or forced into extreme caricatures that typically saturate blockbuster comedies.

One underutilized player, however, is Zoe Kazan as Rose’s best friend and roommate, “Francie.” She serves the purpose as the proverbial funny sidekick, only interested in Rose’s love life and decision making. Although roommates would typically discuss their love lives, there could have been more for Francie and more for Kazan.

What’s marketed as a romantic comedy, with the aided use of talents like Kroll, Scott and Slate, has seriously deep elements layered underneath its light-hearted exterior. The plot delves into the cause of Robbie’s injury and the lasting impact it’s had on their lives. Goodheart shifts the focus back and forth from the love between a man and a woman to the love between brothers, perfectly blending both suspense, sincerity - and touch of hilarity.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (9/23/16)

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Middle Photo: Adam Scott as “Robbie” and Jenny Slate as “Rose”

Bottom Photo: Nick Kroll as “Bill” with Slate

Photo Credits: THR

Q: Does My Blind Brother pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Unfortunately, no.

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QUEEN OF KATWE

Opens tomorrow (9/23/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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HOWARDS END 4K

Reflections on the Silver Anniversary of Howards End by FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner

So I happened to be at a morning screening for film critics at the Film Forum last Thursday, and when I emerged from the Ladies Room afterwards (at around 12:10), I saw that a screening of the new 4K Silver Anniversary Restoration of Howards End was about to begin. Since this was the last day I would be able to see it at the Film Forum on a Big Screen, I thought "what the heck," and I stayed.

I am so glad I did! I am delighted to report that Howards End at 25 is not just glorious, it's actually better than ever.

Howards End was nominated for NINE Oscars in 1992, it won THREE, and each and every one of them went to a woman!!!

  • Emma Thompson: Best Actress in a Leading Role
  • Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Luciana Arrighi: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (shared with Ian Whittaker)

I say it was better than ever in 2016 because I was watching it in the third and final act of Hillary Rodham Clinton's barrier-busting run for President of the United States of America. And so, when "Margaret Schlegel" (Emma Thompson) says to her fiance "Henry Wilcox" (Anthony Hopkins) "Can you not forgive Helen as I have forgiven you? Can you not say: 'What Helen has done, I have done.'" Well, I literally broke out in tears! pleading

For those who have neither seen nor read Howards End, let me provide a smidgen of context. Howards End is the name of an English country home owned by "Ruth Wilcox" (Vanessa Redgrave).

Ruth Wilcox is a wealthy lady of the late 19th Century. Margaret Schlegel and her sister "Helen Schlegel" (Helena Bonham Carter) are ladies of the early 20th Century (not quite so wealthy, but certainly well-to-do). Nevertheless, when Ruth Wilcox and Margaret Schlegel meet up "on the Continent" (meaning somewhere in Europe) while on vacation, they are immediately sympatico. Months later, finding themselves alone in London just before the holidays, they bond over Christmas shopping and other ladylike pursuits. In the course of their conversations, Ruth tells Margaret a great deal about her love for Howards End, and she almost manages to take her there for a look see... but fate intervenes.

On her deathbed, Ruth writes a note leaving Howards End to Margaret. When he finds the note, Ruth's husband Henry destroys it. Nevertheless, he is intrigued by Margaret, and slowly but surely, he comes to understands why his wife was so smitten with the young--but not so young--woman. Henry proposes and Margaret accepts. (Me? I would have given Emma Thompson an Oscar for this one scene alone!) Complications? Complications abound!!!

That's enough plot! Howards End is the pinnacle of an extraordinary cinematic collaboration that is always, always referred to as Merchant Ivory Productions. And it is true that director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (who died in 2005), had a unique personal and professional relationship. However, almost all of their films--and every single one of "their" most aesthetically and commercially successful films--were penned by screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Now really, folks: In a just world, these films would be known as Merchant Ivory Jhabvala Productions. Right? Of course, right!

So watching Howards End in 2016 is bittersweet.

Sweet because Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (who died in 2013) is one of the only women in history to win not one but two Oscars for her screenplays (both, of course, for "Merchant Ivory" productions). Sweet because Howards End holds up so well on screen after twenty-five years. Sweet because women really have come so far since the dawn of the Suffragette movement. (There is actually a lovely scene in which Margaret has to shoosh her friends when Ruth chimes in--in the middle of a lively discussion after an elegant luncheon--to say that she does not believe in women's suffrage.) Bitter because with all of her qualifications, Hillary Rodham Clinton still has to fight so $#@%ing hard for her right to campaign for the top job.

If she were here today, I feel sure that Ruth Prawer Jhabvala--who lived the last part of her long life in Manhattan--would be voting for HRC on November 8th... so I will do it for her in her honor.

My score? Of course my score is 5/5 🙂

© Jan Lisa Huttner (9/22/16) FF2 Media

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Photo Credits: Derrick Santini/Merchant Ivory Productions. Watch preview of Howards End 4K here.

Top Photo: "Margaret Schlegel" (Emma Thompson) suddenly sees something that causes her world to implode.

Middle Photo: Margaret begs "Henry Wilcox" (Anthony Hopkins) to allow her sister Helen to spend one final night at Howards End.

Bottom Photo: Margaret and "Ruth Wilcox" (Vanessa Redgrave) Christmas Shopping in London.

Final Photo: Henry & Margaret are together at Howards End in the ironic "happy ending" of Howards End.

Q: Does Howards End pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? GreenA2016

Absolutely!

In addition to the conversations Ruth and Margaret have about Howards End (d'uh!)--not to mention Christmas shopping--Margaret, Helen, and their friends (most of whom are women) discuss politics, culture, and other highbrow topics of the day.

The Wilcox women--specifically daughter "Evie" (Jemma Redgrave)  and daughter-in-law "Dolly" (Susie Lindeman)--fret about Margaret and her increasingly intrusive role in their tight family circle. Meanwhile, Margaret and "Aunt Juley" (Prunella Scales) are in a panic when Helen suddenly disappears at the beginning of Act Three.

Yes, yes. Of course, there are several terrific male roles in Howards End beyond Anthony Hopkins perfect turn as Henry Wilcox--especially Samuel West's poignant performance as Leonard Bast"--but the core of this film is about women. Hooray 🙂

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BRIDGET JONES’S BABY

xmastreeBridget Jones’s Baby is pretty much everything you could ever want it to be, and a little bit more. From the fantastic cast and their wonderful performances, to the soundtrack that will bring you back, this film is a must see. It is the perfect film to wrap up the Bridget Jones franchise, with every bit of the witty humor you have been missing over the years.

Directed by Sharon Maguire, and co-written by Helen Fielding and Emma Thompson, this film is the flick you have been waiting for, that men and women can watch together, and fully enjoy. (LMB: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Associate Lindsy M. Bissonnette

In this third installment of the Bridget Jones franchise, our beloved “Bridget Jones” (Reneé Zellweger) has had quite the dry spell. She spent so much time focusing on her fantastic career that her love life has fallen by the wayside. With her “Mum” (Gemme Jones) constantly pressuring her to settle down and start a family, the anxiety of when, and if, she will find “the one” begins to creep into her otherwise purposeful and successful life.

After being tricked into attending a music festival by her dear friend/colleague “Miranda” (Sarah Solemani), Bridget drunkenly meets “Jack” (Patrick Dempsey), a charming, smooth, and handsome man. They have... relations... many times, and it finally seems that her luck with men is about to change.

Bridget and Miranda return home triumphant from their heavy partying at the music festival. And then, when Bridget and her long ago on-again-off-again--beloved “Mark Darcy” (Colin Firth)--keep meeting at funerals and christenings, they rekindle their tenderness for one another and have.... relations.... as well. bridgetquandaryfb

Finally, Bridget is feeling pretty confident, but when she starts inexplicably gaining weight a couple of weeks later and finds out she’s pregnant, that confidence turns to anxiety. Who is the father?

Well, welcome to this hilarious film. Sit back and enjoy.

There are a million things that make this movie great. The nostalgia of revisiting this story, and finally seeing what will happen to our much-loved Bridget, but also the writing and cast are purely fantastic. Emma Thompson is uproarious as “Dr. Rawlings” (Bridget's obstetrician), and the folks in Bridget's gang are as sidesplitting and lovable as ever.

Director Sharon Maguire, and screenwriters Helen Fielding and Emma Thompson have pulled together a heartfelt and humorous film that empowers all to follow their ambitions, and never give up on finding that one person to spend the rest of your life with.

© Lindsy M. Bissonnette (9/15/16) FF2 Media

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Top Photo: "Bridget Jones" (Reneé Zellweger) alone and pregnant, grumpily drags a Christmas tree home by her lonesome....

Middle Photo: Then later locks herself out of her flat!

Bottom Photo: "Mark" (Colin Firth) and “Jack” (Patrick Dempsey) race against the clock to get Bridget into the hospital before the baby arrives.

Photo Credits: Gilles Keyte

Q: Does Bridget Jones’s Baby pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

Yes!

This film has many fantastic female characters, and they talk--incessantly--about lots of things other than guys. Bridget and "Miranda" (Sarah Solemani) talk about work, sex, and the baby. Bridget and her new boss “Alice” (Kate O’Flynn) talk about her irregular performance at work. And, of course, Bridget and "Dr. Rawlings" (Emma Thompson) have several conversations about various aspects of her pregnancy. Meanwhile, Bridget's Mum (Gemma Jones) has new career aspirations too!

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Lyndsy and I saw Bridget Jones's Baby together at a WOM Screening--Word of Mouth--at the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square. Side-by-side, we laughed our heads off and even sniffled a bit. Sharing the experience with a Gal Pal made it all the more enjoyable.

To tell you the truth, I wasn't taken with the first film Bridget Jones's Diary (2001). Although I loved both Reneé Zellweger and Colin Firth, I thought it worked a bit too hard to be an "update" of Pride and Prejudice rather than its own thing. I gave it a 3/4 rating, meaning good enough, but only barely. (click HERE for haiku) So I was very surprised by how much I liked the second film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reasonto which I gave a 4.5/5 rating in 2004. (click HERE for haiku)

In one of the greatest scenes in cinema history, "Fanny Brice" (Barbra Streisand) gives "Flo Ziegfeld" (Walter Pidgeon) a comedy lesson. He storms into her dressing room in Funny Girl just after she brings the house down with her riff on the "His Love Makes Me Beautiful" number, but she stands her ground. "When it is my joke, then they are laughing with me, not at me." haircarebjd

Just so. Again and again, Bridget Jones gets herself into impossible situations, and yet Mark Darcy loves her "just the way she is" (as he so famously proclaimed in Bridget Jones's Diary). The delight of Bridget Jones's Baby is seeing how they both cope now that new people (not just Jack, of course, but first and foremost this new baby) have been sucked into their seemingly bottomless comic vortex.

So I hope you will see Bridget Jones's Baby, and when you do, I hope you will enjoy it as much as Lindsy and I did. But afterwards, please, please do not give away the ending. Your friends want to laugh with Bridget, not at Bridget, so you owe it to them to let Bridget deliver the punchline.

My rating for Bridget Jones's Baby? 4.5/5 = the same as Lindsy's 🙂

© Jan Lisa Huttner (9/19/16) FF2 Media

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Final Photos in Jan's Two Cents

Top Photo: Hair care Bridget style in Bridget Jones's Diary. Photo Credit: Alex Bailey

Bottom Photo: Bridget finds herself locked in a Thai prison in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. Watch her hilarious rendition of "Like a Virgin" on YouTube. "Then years of this?" Precisely 😉 Photo Credit: Laurie Sparham

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