Reviews: B-D

Film Review: BELOVED

After struggling to get herself & her children north, a runaway slave (Winfrey) takes drastic steps to prevent recapture. She succeeds, but the emotional burden is enormous. This film belongs to its actresses, with Newton particularly poignant in the title role. A painful film, but “attention must be paid.” More on BELOVED.

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Reviews: B-D

Film Review: BEFORE SUNSET

Two people with romantic memories of one another meet again after many years. But what could be more hackneyed? His wife no longer excites him sexually. Her boyfriends are never reliable. So they talk, talking themselves into a totally predictable climax. Jan says: “Feh!” Rich is a tad more forgiving.  More on BEFORE SUNSET.

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Reviews: B-D

Film Review: THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY

American soldier suddenly disappears, leaving his wife to eek out a living in Saigon. She sends their son back to the Vietnamese heartland where he’s raised by family members who despise him until he’s old enough to begin his long search for answers. Sabina Murray’s screenplay grounds an eloquent masterpiece. More on THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY.

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Reviews: B-D

Film Review: BEAUTIFUL

Mona (Driver) is determined to win the Miss American Miss beauty pageant, devoting her considerable energies to clawing her way to the top. This is fluffy stuff, nevertheless Driver puts it over, ably assisted by Adams & Eisenberg. Despite the naysayers, we like Mona, we really do! More on BEAUTIFUL.

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Reviews: H-J zPennyRants

I’M THROUGH WITH WHITE GIRLS: CIFF ’07 Review

First time director Jennifer Sharp “SWANs Up” after the Q&A for her screening of I’M THROUGH WITH WHITE GIRLS at the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival.  This is a terrific film which definitely deserves distribution.  Hey, Spike Lee: your Sista needs you to give her a boost! Read FF2 haiku. (Photo: Jan Lisa Huttner)

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zPennyEvents

“Jane” @ Quincy (IL) Branch AAUW

Read Article in Quincy HERALD-WHIG      Second stop on my “Jane Addams Day” roadshow.  Presented DINNER AT JANE’S to members of Quincy Branch AAUW & their guests at the Quincy Unitarian Church.  For more information about DINNER AT JANE’S & all of AAUW-Illinois’ plans for Jane Addams Day celebrations statewide, visit the AAUW-Illinois website.  The first annual […]

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Reviews: K-M zPennyRants

Film Review: LARS & THE REAL GIRL

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! We saw LARS last night @ the Chicago International Film Festival & we were both totally charmed.  Jan predicts that Nancy Oliver is now on the 2008 Oscar Fast-Track for a “Best Original Screenplay” nomination.  Film opens in NYC & LA today (10/12) & next Friday (10/19) in Chicago & beyond. Click here for FF2 […]

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zPennyEvents zPennyRants

CIFF ’07 Event: JUMP! Screening & Reception

WITASWAN members welcome Helen Hood Scheer to Chicago on October 10th. Photo in the middle shows Helen, director of the new doc JUMP!, with her editor Scott Morgan during the Q&A session right after their first screening at the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival. Additional screenings are scheduled for Friday 10/12 @ 4:15 PM & Saturday 10/13 @ […]

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Reviews: B-D

Review: THE BALLAD OF RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, folk-singing legend, is best known as “the link between Woody Guthrie & Bob Dylan,” but he’s also the father of 2 daughters & the ex-husband of 4 wives as well as the lover of countless women & the buddy of countless men. This is his story. More on THE BALLAD OF RAMBLIN’ […]

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Reviews: B-D

Review: THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO

Imaginative retelling of a western footnote. Expelled from her Boston home after the birth of her illegitimate son, Josephine has to disguise herself to stay alive. Abused & penniless, she builds a new life for herself in a rough mining town, & her secret holds until her autopsy decades later. More on THE BALLAD OF […]

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Reviews: B-D

Review: THE BALLAD OF JACK & ROSE

Beautifully constructed mood piece walking the tightrope of father/daughter love. Jack’s a 60’s guy of independent means stubbornly clinging to life on an abandoned commune. Rose is his daughter, totally devoted but also aware that he’s sheltered her from the “real” world. Resonates well beyond the specifics of its plot. More on THE BALLAD OF […]

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Reviews: A

AWAY FROM HER

10/10/13 UPDATE: Away from Her is based on the story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro. Today Munro became the 13th woman in history to win the Nobel Prize for Literature 🙂 2008 UPDATE: Congratulations to writer/director Sarah Polley (nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar) & Julie Christie (nominated for the Best Actress […]

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Reviews: A

Review: ANNE B. REAL

“Cynthia” is a high school student in a dangerous urban neighborhood who finds inspiration in THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. Outwardly she seems quiet, but the tension within her builds until she takes dramatic public control of her own words at a rap concert. JaNyce Richardson is terrific — a triumphant debut performance!***** For more, […]

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Reviews: A

Review: AMERICAN SPLENDOR

Harvey Pekar is an ornery autodidact who became a counterculture personality by creating an adult comic book series about his life in working-class Cleveland. This imaginative biopic combines interviews with the “real” Harvey, panels based on the strips, dramatic reenactments, & snippets from guest shots on the David Letterman Show. More on AMERICAN SPLENDOR.

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Reviews: A

Review: AMERICAN RHAPSODY

A family in flight from Communist Hungary leaves its infant daughter behind. The child is raised by a rural couple until her parents are able to bring her “home” to Los Angeles. The director (Gardos) is telling her own story — about the mysteries of love, loss, & personal identity. More on AMERICAN RHAPSODY.

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Reviews: A

Review: AEON FLUX

Charlize Theron plays a futuristic freedom-fighter discovering mid-mission that “the truth” is very complicated. Rich found the rules of her world too thin to be engaging. Jan agrees that Frances McDormand’s oracular role was ludicrous, but she was still drawn into Theron’s dilemma & moved by her relationship with her colleague (played by Sophie Okonedo). […]

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Reviews: #

Review: 24 HOUR WOMAN

Workaholic NYC TV producer (Perez) gets pregnant, her husband promises to “help” with the baby, & hilarious consequences ensue. SPLIT DECISION: Jan laughed so hard she fell out of her seat innumerable times, but for Rich the whole film was too overblown & the ending was way over-the-top. You decide!!! More on 24 HOUR WOMAN.

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Reviews: A

Review: AVIYA’S SUMMER

Gila Almagor’s screenplay is autobiographical & she stars here as her mother, a mentally-ill Holocaust survivor ridiculed by neighbors & totally unable to care for her teenage daughter no matter how much she tries. Heartbreaking depiction of life in the infant state of Israel: hard times with little room for pity. More on AVIYA’S SUMMER.

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Reviews: #

Review: 13 CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ONE THING

Four sets of characters act out their own mini-dramas & yet mysterious threads connect the four separate stories, creating a highly satisfying whole. The subject is happiness – as elusive and ephemeral as a rainbow. Arkin is outstanding as a divorced, middle-aged businessman. Alex Wurman’s melancholy piano-driven soundtrack sets the mood. Click HERE to read […]

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Reviews: #

Review: 2 DAYS IN PARIS

30-something Parisian photographer now living in Manhattan returns home with her latest boyfriend (Goldberg) in tow. Jan loved this RomCom in which Delpy artfully riffs on her own onscreen persona (basically playing the opposite of her BEFORE SUNRISE/SUNSET character), but Rich was confused by shifts in tone between comedy & tragedy. More on 2 DAYS […]

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zBackfill/Misc

FWA Posts Penny’s Reviews!

Thanks to FWA Executive Director Martha Richards, Penny is now posting full reviews of new films by women directors & screenwriters on the website managed by the FUND FOR WOMEN ARTISTS.  The first two reviews (of 2 DAYS in PARIS & THE NANNY DIARIES) are already live. Thanks, Martha!!!

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zPennyEvents

10/10/07: WITASWAN Night @ the CIFF

Wednesday October 10 will be WITASWAN Night @ the Chicago International Film Festival! Evening includes a screening of the new doc JUMP! @ 6:30 PM @ the Landmark Century Center Cinema on Clark & Diversey, followed by a dessert reception for filmmaker Helen Hood Scheer at a local restaurant. Space at the reception is limited, so […]

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zPennyRants

Jim Jones on THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB

Capsule review by J.R. Jones (From the Chicago Reader)  The Jane Austen Book Club   “The movie equivalent of a toenail-painting session, this adaptation of Karen Joy Fowler’s best seller centers on a group of unhappy women (Kathy Baker, Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace) and one mystified man (Hugh Dancy) who convene […]

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zPennyEvents

“Jane” @ Aurora (IL) Branch AAUW

     First stop on my “Jane Addams Day” roadshow.  Presented DINNER AT JANE’S to members of Aurora Branch AAUW & their guests in the IMSA (Illinois Math & Science Academy) auditorium.  For more information about DINNER AT JANE’S & all of AAUW-Illinois’ plans for Jane Addams Day celebrations statewide, visit the AAUW-Illinois website.  The first annual Jane […]

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zJan's Chats

Aline Brosh McKenna on THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

Jan: You captured it all, so please tell me about it: tell me how you created Miranda & the extra scenes that you wrote for her; tell me how you created Nigel from a composite of characters in the book. What were your goals when you create these wonderful characters.  Aline:  Miranda: we wanted to […]

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zPennyRants

Stephen Holden on THE NANNY DIARIES

From Stephen Holden’s review of The Nanny Diaries in the NEW YORK TIMES: “Just before the big bad wolves — the rich and powerful — are about to devour the Little Red Riding Hoods in these books [Nanny & Prada], they see the light and parachute into improbably soft landings…”  Penny rants: OK, putting Prada […]

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zJan's Chats

Chris Noonan on MISS POTTER

What a surprise: I walked into a critics screening of MISS POTTER with minimal background and low expectations (“Oy, Peter Rabbit? I don’t think so!”), but walked out delighted to have met her acquaintance. Luckily the publicist was able to add me to Chris Noonan’s schedule when the came to Chicago on a press tour […]

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zJan's Chats

Julie Delpy on 2 DAYS IN PARIS

Jan: Julie, tell me about the evolution of your character “Marion” in your new film 2 DAYS IN PARIS, and about Marion’s relationship with “Jack” (Adam Goldberg). In your mind, how has all this evolved from the relationship “Celine,” your character in BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET, had with “Jesse” (Ethan Hawke).Julie: Well, Marion, she […]

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zPennyRants

07 Oscar Rant for Digital Filmmaker

When you’re a film critic, Oscar Night is a bit of a bore. We’re like political pundits energized by the primaries; from long experience, we know that by the time election night rolls around, most of the important issues have already been decided. So my biggest day of the year is the day that Oscar […]

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zPennyRants

07 Oscar Chat with Engster

“A year ago we visited with Chicago Film Critic Jan Huttner, who was not at all happy about the Oscar nominations of 2006; and here is it 2007. Everything went as planned for DREAMGIRLS, except the eight nominations did not include one for Best Picture. We’ll talk about this and much more. The Oscar nominations […]

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