zPennyRants

10/17/07: Campaigning for ’08 Oscars Begins!

The campaign for the 2008 Oscars officially began yesterday (10/17/07).  How do I know?  Because yesterday I received my first “For Your Consideration” letter.  In the next three months, my e-mail & snail mail inboxes will be flooded with letters, screeners, & chum of many varieties, all of which I will receive because I am a member […]

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zPennyEvents zPennyRants

CFIC ’07: Sneak Peak

The 2007 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema opens tomorrow night (Thurs 10/18) at the Pipers Alley Theatre in Old Town & several wonderful films by Israeli schvesters are on the schedule.  My top pick in the shorts category is EMPATHY a terrific new film by first time director Adi Refaeli (showing on Sat 10/27 @ […]

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: JAPANESE STORY

Beautifully understated story about culture clash showcasing Collette as a workaholic Australian geologist forced to play tour guide for a visiting Japanese investor. Shot primarily in the vast Australian outback, the cinematography’s hypnotic. The subtle score reaches a poignant intensity as Collette watches her new friend board his flight home. More on JAPANESE STORY.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS

It’s Copenhagen, so this dour collection of Danes starts out repressed & withdrawn. But they each discover a reason for joining the Italian class at the local Community Center, the language loosens their tongues, & romance blooms. A lovely way to spend a day – especially if the weather’s bad outside. More on ITALIAN FOR […]

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: INTRODUCING THE DWIGHTS

Split Decision: Expecting a “comedy,” Rich was put off by Blethyn’s narcissistic, overbearing Mom. Expecting a “dramedy” (& having more personal experience in the spotlight), Jan was thoroughly charmed by this Australian tale of a middle-age comedienne slowly but surely growing up. Chittenden & Wilson are both excellent as Blethyn’s sons. More on INTRODUCING THE […]

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: IN MY COUNTRY

Delicate exploration of how people come to betray their principles, based on the memoir of an Afrikans journalist (called here “Anna Malan” & played by Juliette Binoche) who covered South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings in the mid-90’s. Samuel L. Jackson plays “Langston Whitfield” (Malan’s know-it-all antagonist from the Washington Post). Brendan Gleeson plays “Colonel […]

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Bechdel-Wallace List Reviews: H-J

IN HER SHOES

Screenwriter Suzannah Grant does for Cameron Diaz what she did for Julia Roberts in ERIN BROCKOVICH: creates a flawed but multi-dimensional woman & then helps her grow. (Based on the best-selling 2003 novel by Jennifer Weiner.) Get past the fact that these characters are all supposed to be Jewish (Shirely MacLaine plays “Bubbe”) & enjoy […]

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: IN AMERICA

There’s a lot to like in this semi-autobiographical story about an Irish family living illegally in 1980’s Manhattan, but midway thru it turns totally predictable & we left the theater in dry-eyed disappointment. Question: When will charismatic Djimon Hounsou finally get a part that’s worthy of him? More on IN AMERICA.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: I SHOT ANDY WARHOL

In 1968, Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol, creating havoc in Manhattan’s trendy art world. Taylor won great acclaim as Valerie, capturing both her tremendous intelligence & her total pathos. Abused as a child, Valerie was consumed by rage & lived her life at the edge of self-destruction. What a waste! More on I SHOT ANDY […]

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS

Raw slice of working-class life. Deserted by her father in her early teens, Debby now has a love/hate relationship with men, alternating between desperate need & caustic anger. Thurman does well in a grating, almost thankless part. Lewis & Rowlands are both touching as her best friend & her mother. More on HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HOWARD’S END

Oscar-winner Thompson owns this film. She’s an intelligent, educated woman in Edwardian England torn between her bohemian sister (Carter) & her new husband (Hopkins) a conservative upper-crust businessman. Personal Best for the whole Merchant Ivory team, especially Jhabvala (who also won an Oscar for her fine adaptation of Forster’s novel). More on HOWARD’S END.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT

Flin (Wynona Ryder) retreats to her grandmother’s house to “finish her thesis” after her live-in lover proposes. One by one, the members of grandma’s quilting circle impart their life lessons. Most stories are told by pairs of uncannily well-matched (ingenue & veteran) actresses. A feminist-lite treat with a lovely Coplanesque score. More on HOW TO […]

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HOLY SMOKE

Difficult to watch but ultimately rewarding. A young Australian woman travels to India & is overwhelmed by the potential for a different way of life. Her family (heavily caricatured) decides she has been brainwashed, so they lure her home & place her in the hands of an over-confident cult deprogrammer. More on HOLY SMOKE.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: THE HOLY GIRL

Hauntingly beautiful Argentinian coming-of-age film set in a respectable yet rapidly aging hotel. Both mother (the proprietress) & daughter find themselves becoming involved with one of the physicians attending a medical convention. More on THE HOLY GIRL.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HIGH ART

An ambitious editor discovers that her neighbor is a famous recluse. The jaded older woman is drawn in by the young woman’s innocence & energy. Powerful depiction of the multiple, highly charged currents that flow in mentor/mentee relationships. Ally Sheedy’s best part ever won her multiple awards. Warning: adults only. More on HIGH ART.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HIDEOUS KINKY

A ‘60’s flashback. Kate Winslet stars as a young woman in search of enlightenment who moves to Morocco with her two young daughters in tow. Based on the autobiography of the youngest daughter, who explores her mother’s life & times with tender but merciless precision. More on HIDEOUS KINKY.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HEIR TO AN EXECUTION

Documentary about Ethel & Julius Rosenberg, executed in 1953 for “stealing the secret of the atom bomb.” SPLIT DECISION: Rich thinks Meeropol should be more forthright about her grandparent’s espionage activities; Jan thinks what’s most relevant are the parallels between McCarthyism & the current threat to civil liberties after 9/11.***** For more, see the “Columns” […]

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HARD GOODBYES: MY FATHER

Greek middle-class family copes with sudden tragedy. Story’s told from the perspective of young Elias (Karayannis), who communicates more about his parent’s relationship than he actually understands. Beautifully retrained, with no distracting melodrama. Tsirigouli (Elias’s mother) & Stergioglou (Elias’s uncle) are especially touching, bearing their adult responsibilities with sad-eyed grace. More on Hard Goodbyes: My […]

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zPennyEvents

Marlys in VA!

While I was in Aurora, my friend Marlys Marshall Styne was playing Jane at the NFPW Annual Meeting in Richmond, VA. Marlys is an active member of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association & a local & national award-winner.  Click here to read more about Jane Addams’ years as a member of IWPA.

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Reviews: H-J

Film Review: HAIRSPRAY (2007)

Ebullient musical version of John Waters’ transgressive classic about a chubby teen (Blonsky) whose joie de vivre topples racial barriers, aka DIRTY DANCING goes Baltimore. Travolta plays Mom (!); Walken play Dad; Efron plays the love object. Pfeiffer has great fun as the skinny blonde nemesis, & Walters gets his Hitchcock moment. More on HAIRSPRAY.

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Reviews: E-G

GRACE OF MY HEART

From my column for The Woman’s Papers: It’s summertime. Sometimes the best plan is to avoid the heat and sing your heart out at home! GRACE OF MY HEART is director/screenwriter Allison Anders’ musical tribute to the ‘60s. Illeana Douglas stars as “Denise Waverly,” an aspiring singer and gifted composer of pop melodies. Jennifer Leigh […]

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Reviews: E-G

THE GOVERNESS

The Governess Directed & written by Sandra Goldbacher Principal Actors: Minnie Driver with Tom Wilkinson & Harriet Walter Overview: The Governess takes Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre and turns it inside-out and upside-down.  Minnie Driver stars as “Rosina de Silva,” a girl from a prosperous middle-class Jewish family living in London circa 1830.  Rosina is […]

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Reviews: E-G

Film Review: GOD’S SANDBOX

Dohan stars as a free-spirited Israeli woman circa 1975. Is she in love with Nagim (Mer) or her own fantasy of Bedouin life? Regardless, her attempts to “go native” have tragic consequences for them both. Jan was mesmerized by characters, cinematography & soundtrack; Rich found emotions overwrought & “mysteries” annoying. More on GOD’S SANDBOX.

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Reviews: E-G

Film Review: GIRLFIGHT

Diana (Rodriguez) has every right to the huge chip she’s carrying on her shoulder, but it’s weighing her down. Her future looks bleak until she stumbles on a teacher who helps her channel her aggression into boxing. She finds herself in breaking down old barriers. Raw. Intense. Inspiring. More on GIRLFIGHT.

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Reviews: E-G

Film Review: FUR

Director Shainberg re-teams with his SECRETARY collaborator screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson on a very lose adaptation of Patricia Bosworth’s biography of photographer Diane Arbus. Fascinating attempt to depict artistic inspiration succeeds best as a meditation on the birth of ‘60s sensibility, but Jan thinks Kidman isn’t quite “dark” enough to carry the lead. More on […]

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Reviews: E-G

Film Review: FUNNY GIRL (2001)

FUNNY GIRL (1968) is now in re-release with a new dye transfer process that makes the colors in the new print incredibly vibrant. Barbra is pure electricity. We laughed! Jan cried! We were fully satisfied. Drive as far as you have to — this really is “an event film”!!! More on FUNNY GIRL.

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Reviews: E-G

FRIDA

Click here to read my two reviews of Frida from 2002 (one for DVD WOLF & one for the LA arts site PICKLEBIRD):  FridaReviews2002  Director Taymor (famous for Broadway’s multiple-Tony award winner The Lion King) has a fabulous eye. Her life partner, composer Elliot Goldenthal, has a fabulous ear. Together, they’ve created an aesthetic masterpiece celebrating […]

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Reviews: E-G

Film Review: FREE ZONE

Three women (American, Israeli & Palestinian) cross paths for intense one day. Each one is simultaneously herself (with her character’s backstory & complex relationships) as well as a national archetype. Listen to the soundtrack: that’s Chava Alberstein singing her infamous version of CHAD GADYA, so pay attention to the words. More on FREE ZONE.

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Reviews: E-G

Film Review: FREAKY FRIDAY (2003)

Very sweet, extremely conventional Disney story about a mother & daughter who, by exchanging bodies for a day, come to understand the world from the other’s point of view. There are no surprises, but the leads do such a good job of impersonating each other that it’s easy to enjoy. More on FREAKY FRIDAY.

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Reviews: E-G

Film Review: FIRE

New bride (Das) enters household already containing husband’s aged mother, elder brother & wife (Kharbanda+Azmi), & longtime servant (Chowdhry). Both arranged marriages are fragile, & the sisters-in-law turn to each other for ever-deepening, eventually-sexual companionship. Closely-observed exploration of “ordinary” middle-class Indian women confronting tension between traditional expectations & contemporary options. More on FIRE.

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