Currently Browsing: Roza Melkumyan

A compelling immigrant narrative is marred by a weak script and acting in Ela Thier’s ‘Foreign Letters’

In 1982, a young girl and her family must adjust to life as immigrants in America after leaving Israel to escape war. While exchanging letters with her best friend back home, the young daughter finds a new, lifelong friend in a quiet Vietnamese girl in her class. Based on her own childhood, Ela Thier’s Foreign Letters (2012) chronicles the struggles of assimilating to a new language and culture while yearning for the one you left. Unfortunately, its engaging subject matter does not cancel out its weak script and static acting. (RMM: 2.5/5)

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‘Mabel’s Strange Predicament’ is both funny and foundational in the making of the modern sitcom

Mabel Normand directs, writes, and stars in this silent short film alongside the always charming Charlie Chaplin. Mabel’s relationship with her sweetheart is threatened at a fancy hotel when a staggering drunk (Chaplin) starts meddling in her affairs. The small cast of characters soon finds itself in several sticky situations. Mabel’s Strange Predicament (1914) entertains while laying the foundations for the modern sitcom. (RMM: 4/5)

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‘Corpo Celeste’ sparks conversation about the church and its place in society today

A 13-year-old girl struggles to find her place in society after moving back to Italy with her mother and older sister. Soon, she finds herself wrestling with the tumultuous growing pains of youth while trying to make sense of the Catholic church and her place in it. Alice Rohrwacher invites us to look—alongside her heroine— at a society from the outside and observe the ways in which religion permeates a people. (RMM: 3.5/5)

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Though steeped in patriotic pathos and historical context, ‘Tomka and His Friends’ sustains the lighthearted energy of a children’s adventure

When occupying Nazis set up camp on their soccer field after the withdrawal of Mussolini’s Italian forces, a group of boys vows to defend it. Together with the partisan resistance, they fight for freedom from fascism – and have quite a bit of fun in the process. Xhanfize Keko’s Tomka and His Friends (1977) offers a unique spin on a sub-genre of child adventures, grounding it in history while infusing it with patriotic pathos. (RMM: 4/5)

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Though nostalgic and sweet, ‘Dogfight’ reminds us not to romanticize the past

In 1963, a  group of young marines spend a night in San Francisco before being deployed to Vietnam. When one invites a shy, frumpy girl to a party called a “dogfight,” he has no idea that he will have fallen for her come morning. Director Nancy Savoca captures a moment of love and tenderness during a time of political upheaval. Historical context in Dogfight (1991) adds a further layer of nostalgia while inviting the audience to look at the past through a more critical lens. (RMM: 4/5)

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‘The Women Who Loved Cinema’ and the female pioneers of Egyptian film

In her two-part documentary series, The Women Who Loved Cinema (2002), director Marianne Khoury recounts prominent Egyptian actresses and filmmakers’ lives from the 1920s and 1930s. These women would advance the development of Egyptian cinema, leaving their mark on a growing industry. (RMM: 3.5/5)

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Musings on Meshes of the Afternoon: Maya Deren explores the landscape of the subconscious

TCM will feature films from 12 decades—and representing 44 countries—totaling 100 classic and current titles all created by women. Read more about this here!   A woman picks up a flower on her way home and takes a nap in her living room armchair. What follows is a dream sequence with cyclical scenes of a shrouded […]

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‘Krane’s Confectionery’ demonstrates society’s sexist mindset along with its refusal to acknowledge the need for self-care

A single mother who works as a seamstress struggles to support her children while she drowns in work. When she meets a man who challenges her to be a little more selfish, she finds herself reevaluating her entire life. Krane’s Confectionery (1951) demonstrates the ways in which men and women alike participate in the patriarchy while exploring a society’s refusal to acknowledge the basic need for self-care.(RMM: 4/5)

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Surrealist film “Daisies” confuses and entertains

When two young women realize that the world is terrible, they decide that they will behave basely. They spend their time tricking older men into buying them dinner, eating extravagant meals, and having fun. Vera Chytilová’s Daisies (1966) takes a colorful dive into comedic Surrealism while exploring both anarchic and nihilistic ideas. (RMM: 4/5)

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‘Wasp’ depicts a family strained by circumstance yet bonded in love

A single mother in Dartford, England struggles emotionally and financially to support three young girls and a baby boy as she reconnects with an old flame from high school. Andrea Arnold’s Oscar-winning short film Wasp (2003) is an at-times charming and all-around painfully honest portrayal of a family strained by circumstance yet strongly bonded in love. (RMM: 5/5)

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Cheryl Dunye’s ‘The Watermelon Woman’ sparks conversation on subtle racism perpetuated in assigned symbols

The Watermelon Woman focuses on a queer black novice filmmaker’s quest for clarity on the life of a fictitious Black actress of the 30s and 40s who was known for her roles as the archetypical “mammy”. Director Cheryl Dunye deftly yet subtly comments on racism in its stealthiest forms in this funny and conversation-sparking film. (RMM: 4/5)

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“Judy & Punch” a comedy, horror, and satire in one

In a town ruled by ignorance and public stonings, a married couple works to bring their locally successful puppet show to the big stage. When the husband’s blinding ambition leads to tragedy, the wife seeks vengeance. Horror, comedy, and satire prove an interesting and entertaining – though not always compelling – mix in Mirrah Foulkes’ […]

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“A Fine Line” explores the difficulties female chefs face in a male-dominated industry

In her first documentary and film, director Joanna James explores the struggles of top female chefs and restaurant owners to gain recognition in an industry ruled by men. At the same time, she tells the story of her own mother, chef and restaurant owner Valerie James, and her life of hard work and perseverance. (RMM: […]

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‘Adam’ a charming and celebratory exploration of the trans and lesbian community

An awkward teen in his last summer of high school decides to spend the long break in New York City with his older sister, who fully embraces the city’s trans and lesbian activist community. The siblings, along with their friends, stumble their way through love, friendship, and pain. Based on Ariel Schrag’s novel of the […]

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A missed opportunity, “Renegade Dreamers” is all heart but little substance

An interweaving of the past and the present, Karen Kramer’s documentary invokes the voices of the Beat generation to paint a picture of today’s atmosphere of political activism through poetry and song. While its heart is in the right place, Renegade Dreamers lacks the substance needed to make for an inspirational yet informative documentary, leaving […]

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‘The Wandering Soap Opera’ both confounds and enlightens

Through the efforts of his wife and co-director Valeria Sarmiento, the final film of the late Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz has finally made it to the public. The Wandering Soap Opera (in Spanish, La telenovela errante) presents Chilean life as an ensemble of soap operas, exploring their tropes while infusing each scene with its own […]

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‘Girls of the Sun’ is the harrowing narrative of women tried by war

Inspired by the real female Yazidi warriors fighting ISIS, a female battalion fights for the liberation of their town from extremists in the name of a free Kurdistan. A french journalist dedicated to chronicling the truth stands witness to their story. Director Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun (in French, Les filles de soleil) sacrifices […]

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‘Birds of Passage’ is a frightening, striking masterpiece

During the 1960s marijuana craze in Colombia, an indigenous family finds itself further and further entrenched in a lucrative yet dangerously corrupt drug business. Directors Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra deliver the frightening yet startlingly beautiful masterpiece, Birds of Passage (in Spanish, Pájaros de verano) that chronicles this family’s rise and destruction. (RMM: 5/5) Review […]

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‘Who Will Write Our History?’ tells the inspiring, heartbreaking history of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Oyneg Shabes Archive

During WWII, Polish Jews were locked away and left to die in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. Through the work of daring souls like Emanuel Ringelblum, Hersz Wasser, and Rachel Auerbach, their accounts of life and death were written down and preserved in the Oyneg Shabes Archive. Based on the book of the same name by […]

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‘Second Act’ surprises with its entertaining and uplifting story

When a warehouse employee makes a wish that her street smarts were valued as much as book smarts, she doesn’t expect her wish to come true. Suddenly gifted with a new identity complete with fake Harvard degree and impressive resume, she is given a second chance at a stellar career. Director Peter Segal and writers […]

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‘Heart, Baby’ full of heart but lacking in execution

Boxing gives an incarcerated man the chance at freedom. He chooses love instead. Based on a true story, Heart, Baby depicts life in the Central Tennessee State Penitentiary in the 80s, where men and transgender women of all backgrounds and beliefs struggle to coexist within an unjust prison system and its highly homophobic atmosphere. Writer […]

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‘Charm City’ Sheds Light on Gun Violence in Baltimore

Dedicated to discussing crime and gun violence in Baltimore, Charm City tackles the issue from various sides. Director Marilyn Ness includes the voices of police officers, politicians, and the residents themselves as she explores the causes, effects, and potential solutions to a problem that, at times, seems unsolvable. Honest, informative, and thought-provoking, this documentary does […]

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‘Liyana’ and the autonomy that storytelling gives

At a home for orphans in Swaziland, five children become storytellers as they use their own experiences to tell the tale of one girl’s incredible journey. Directors Aaron and Amanda Kopp take the documentary genre and turn it on its head as they utilize fiction as a means for both exploring reality and teaching these […]

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‘The Hate U Give’ a moving force of nature on the humanity that lies beneath political controversy

When 16-year-old “Starr Carter” (Amandla Stenberg) witnesses the unjust, fatal shooting of her friend at the hands of a police officer, her life is changed forever. Already caught between the worlds of her mostly black neighborhood and her mostly white prep school, Starr must overcome the pressures around her to find her own voice. Based […]

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‘Golden Job’; not quite golden, but still manages to entertain

A group of adoptive brothers and partners in crime plan one last heist to steal vital medication for children in Africa. However, a most unexpected betrayal will change their lives forever. Director and writer Kar Lok Chin along with writers Susan Chan, Chi-Yin Cheung, Kin Lok-Kwok, Erica Li, and Heiward Mak deliver an action-packed viewing […]

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Niederpruem’s ‘Little Women’ lacks authenticity and believability

A modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women follows the lives of the March sisters as they overcome hardships and follow their dreams. With good intentions, director and writer Clare Niederpruem and writer Kristi Shimek deliver a Hallmark card of a film dripping in sentimentality and lacking authenticity. (RMM: 2.5/5) Review by […]

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‘A Happening of Monumental Proportions’ is anything but monumental

In just one day, a dead body is found, a man loses his job, an affair ends, a crime is committed, and hearts are broken. In her directorial debut, director Judy Greer attempts to weave together the vignettes of many characters but fails to create a cohesive, compelling, or funny narrative. The star-studded cast is […]

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‘The Land of Steady Habits’ paints a painfully resonant image of conventional suburban life

Feeling suffocated by the conventionality of his job and his family life, a man retires and leaves his wife in an attempt to feel alive again. However, after befriending the troubled teenage son of his wife’s best friend, he finds that everything he does is met with the disapproval of his community. Based on the […]

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‘Kusama: Infinity’ honors the life and work of artist Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese woman in an American man’s world

Artist Yayoi Kusama has spent a lifetime creating original work that pushes the boundaries of contemporary art. In both the U.S. and Japan, she has fought for her place in a conservative artistic community that has refused to acknowledge her brilliance. In her documentary, director and writer Heather Lenz – along with writer Keita Ideno […]

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‘Mile 22’ is just another American spy movie

An elite CIA task force is entrusted with the delivery of a high-priority asset to an extraction point 22 miles from home base while being chased by terrorists. Writers Lea Carpenter and Graham Roland and director Peter Berg add another unoriginal, action-packed spy movie into the collection. (RMM: 2/5) Review by FF2 Associate Roza M. […]

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