The Spotlight

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***Writer’s strike has been averted!*** And here is Hollywood’s reaction.

Jodie Foster’s tribute to the late Jonathan Demme.

Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore working on play focusing on Trump.

The late Robin William’s last film, Absolutely Anything, has a release date.

Would the film classic The Godfather get released today? Director Francis Ford Coppola’s answer.

Film Comment looks back at the Audrey Hepburn/Albert Finney movie Two For the Road.

Women in Hollywood who are considered gold diggers? Gold diggers in Hollywood? Color me shocked!

James Gunn advises not getting into a tizzy over film spoilers.

Is the soon-to-be-released movie 5-25-77 a love letter to Star Wars?

Black and White version of Logan will also be released.

 

 

The Spotlight

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***There is a good chance there will be a writers’ strike via the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) according to Variety Magazine.*** (H/T Tari Jordan)

Move ticket prices are getting higher, and Hollywood Reporter tells us why.

Summer of 2017 movie preview courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

Women directed films that are must-sees in 2017!

Geena Davis celebrates the 25th anniversary of A League of Their Own’s release.

Salma Hayek’s Beatriz at Dinner sounds like my kind of film, one that connects with my “Power to the People” mindset.

Talent agent Sandy Gallin dead at 76.

New documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent celebrates the eminent chef and his connection to California cuisine and the renowned restaurant Chez Panisse.

Will Netflix end its mail order DVD service in the age of streaming?

Director John Waters new summer camp for adults, Camp John Waters.

 

 

 

 

The Spotlight

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Geena Davis announces line-up for 2017 Bentonville Film Festival.

The late Carrie Fisher’s scenes will remain intact in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Mark Hamill’s sweet tribute to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

George Lucas Family Foundation donates a lot of money to USC’s film school.

All the basic gear needed if you are an indie film maker.

Sing Street actor Ian Kenny to act in future Star Wars movie focusing on Han Solo.

Jim Gianopulos to run Paramount’s Viacom division.

Ten notable films of the 1990s according the Onion’s AV Club.

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins to write TV series focusing on the Underground Railroad.

Looks like this may be a good source for all film makers, both experienced and fledgling.

Guest Film Review: 68 Kill by Tari Jordan

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Tari Jordan lives and loves in Austin, TX. She adores her kids, cats, wine, well-written fan fiction and all forms of pop culture. Like the mistress of this blog (that would be me) she is a big fan of the CBS drama Criminal Minds. She writes about the show at her blog Criminal Minds Fans. Due to the care and craft Tari puts into her blog she has become well-acquainted with people who work in front of the camera and behind the scenes of Criminal Minds. She has even interviewed cast and crew members of the show.

Tari recently attended Austin’s celebrated SXSW festival where she got to view 68 Kill, Matthew Gray Gubler’s latest cinematic effort (you most likely know Matthew Gray Gubler as the Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds). She was also lucky enough to meet Mr. Gubler. Or should I say, Mr. Gubler was lucky enough to meet Ms. Jordan?

Here is Tari Jordan’s review of 68 Kill. Thanks, Tari!

Starring: Matthew Gray Gubler and AnnaLynne McCord
Directed by: Trent Haaga

This film was featured in the Midnighters category at SXSW 2017, which is where I got to see it, three times, with the cast and director in attendance.

From the opening shot of Gubler as Chip’s enamored face watching his lady-love while she sleeps, to the closing shot of his flowered flip-flop shod foot pressing the accelerator, this is one helluva ride.

The object of his desire, Liza, energetically played by McCord, is batshit crazy, no doubt. We don’t actually know that right at first, but we do see that she’s aggressively hostile and abusive, and that our hapless hero Chip likes it that way.

From then on this film introduces us to a host of characters that Liza is only happy to dispatch, if it will get her closer to the 68 thousand bucks she wants to steal from her disgusting sugar daddy. What’s that, you say? Yep, Liza supplements her and Chip’s income by selling sex to some gross guy while Chip is out making an honest living by emptying septic systems.

So sugar daddy makes the mistake of bragging about his cash stash during one of their ‘visits’, and her heist plan is hatched. She steals a couple of guns, tells Chip he’ll be the cutest burglar ever (he actually really is, and Gubler is excellent in this role, completely open and real, and riveting in all his scenes), and convinces him to go along with it, as long as nobody gets hurt.

Of course, nothing is as easy as it seems, not only do people get hurt – they get dead – by the now fully unleashed psychopath Liza’s hand. Chip is horrified and can’t believe he’s been roped into this, and to make matters worse, now there’s one girl named Violet (Alisha Boe) that Liza didn’t kill in the trunk of their getaway car. Good thing too, because she becomes very important to Chip later.

There’s sex and violence dished out in equal measure here, and as Chip slowly comes into his own, we’re pulled along on his increasingly horrible hero’s journey. The supporting characters are all excellent (special nod to Sam Eidson who plays Liza’s repulsive and psychotic serial killer brother Dwayne, perfectly). Morally reprehensible and void of conscience is always a good recipe for a film villain, and this movie has several. Sprinkled throughout are generous doses of humor and the laughs never feel forced. It’s a mix that’s tricky to get right, and director Trent Haaga succeeds.

68 Kill is one of the most tightly wound murder comedies I’ve seen, and the payoff is extremely satisfying. There’s a running empowerment thread for nearly every female in the cast, and it’s rare in movies like this that usually tend to objectify and weaken the female characters. From the gas station attendant that forces Chip to orally pleasure her, to the menacing kohl-eyed leader (Sheila Vand) of a pack of sickos that hold Chip prisoner while they torture him (and here I did have to look away. Seeing MGG savagely battered isn’t my cuppa, fake or not.), all the women are in charge.

Highly recommended if what you’re in the mood for is a wholly funny, revved-up, fast-paced, bloody bowl of awesome murdery death.

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Look at this gorgeous creature! And the fellow on the right isn’t so shabby either. Love ya, Tari!

Reel Women: Female Film Directors Past and Present

“If there’s specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can’t change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies.” – Kathryn Bigelow

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In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow, the director of the critically-acclaimed film, The Hurt Locker, made history when she became the first women to win the Oscar for best director. She’s also a slew of other directing awards including the very prestigious Director’s Guild of America award for best director.

In honor of Ms. Bigelow I’ve decided to dust off a feature I initially wrote about women film directors from the silent era to the modern age way back in college, and posted on a defunct blog ending it with Ms. Bigelow’s triumph. I’ve updated this piece to reflect women film directors as of 2017. Enjoy!

As anyone to name a film director and most likely you’ll hear the names Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, Cameron and Tarantino. It is rare that the first name you hear is a woman’s. Why is this? Well, men do dominate the film industry. And mostly men have won the best director Oscars…Kathryn Bigelow being the only anomaly. Or maybe we haven’t had a slew of women directors being nominated for directing Oscars (let alone winning) because only recently have women gone behind the scenes to direct movies and need time to catch up to the big boys. Well, not exactly.

Women have been a part of Hollywood since the silent movie era. Many of these women, like Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, are known for their work in front of the camera. However, women have been calling the shots behind the scenes since before the advent of the “talkies” in the late 1920s. They worked as producers, editors, screenwriters, and yes, directors. Many of these women held very creative and influential positions. One of the highest paid directors of the silent era was a woman. Furthermore, women directors were not afraid to make socially-conscious films.

Just as many actresses like Barbra Streisand and Penny Marshall have turned their talents to directing so did actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Film noir actress, Ida Lupino, directed both films and TV shows in the 1950s and 1960s. And she wasn’t afraid of focusing her camera lens on controversial issues.

So far very few women have been nominated for directing a feature film. These women include Lina Wertmuller, for the Italian language film Seven Beauties (1975), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sophia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), winner Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2009).

The following a just a few notable female film directors and their work.

Silent Era to 1930-Alice Guy Blaché 

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Parisian-born Alice Guy Blaché (1875-1968) was the first female film director in the history of film making. She was also the first director, male or female, to bring narrative film to the silver screen. From 1896 to 1920 Ms. Guy Blaché directed over 400 films. She made her first full length film, The Life of Christ, in 1906. The Life of Christ was a big budget epic that included 300 extras. That same year, her film La Fee Printemps (The Spring Fairy) was one of the first films to be shot in color. In fact, many of her films used a great deal of the best special effects of that time period.

Ms. Guy Blaché was the first woman to own and run her own film studio, the Solax Studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey. After Solax stopped producing films, Ms. Guy Blaché went to work for William Randolph Hearst’s International Film Service.

By the early 1920s, Ms. Guy Blaché stopped making movies, but that did not stop her from giving lectures on film making. She was pretty much forgotten by film historians until she published her memoirs in 1976.

Some other films by Ms. Guy Blaché:

The Cabbage Fairy (1896)

The Dangers of Alcohol (1899)

A Fool and His Money (1912)

A House Divided (1913)

Dream Woman (1914)

The Divorcee (1919)

Tarnished Reputations (1920)

1930 to 1950-Dorothy Arzner

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Born in California, Dorothy Arzner (1897-1979) directed seventeen films between 1927 and 1943. She was the only female director to work with the major actresses of her day, including Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford and Katharine Hepburn. In fact, Ms. Arzner’s 1933 film, Christopher Strong, was the first film to bring the legendary Katharine Hepburn to public awareness.

Though Ms. Arzner initially wanted to work as a doctor, she soon turned her ambitions to movies. She began her career with Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, the parent company of Paramount. After starting out as a typist, Ms. Arzner soon climbed the ranks to screenwriter, and then editor. One of the most famous films she edited was Rudoph Valentino’s Blood and Sand. She was able to leverage this work into directing her first features Fashions for Women and Get Your Man in 1927.

Ms. Arzner’s success as a director lead her to direct one of the first “talkies,” The Wild Party featuring “It Girl” Clara Bow. And between 1927 and 1932, she made eleven features for Paramount until striking out on her own as an independent film director.

As a director, Ms. Arzner tackled many thorny topics including working women and female independence. Her work was often seen as melodramatic, but did reflect on women’s roles both in the home and outside in ways that films directed by men did not.

Ms. Arzner stopped directing movies in 1943. However, she did direct commercials for Pepsi and taught filmmaking at UCLA in the 1960s. And there are reports that director Todd Haynes wants to do biographic on Ms. Arzner’s life and how she affected motion pictures.

Some other films directed by Ms. Arzner:

Anybody’s Woman (1930)

Working Girls (1931)

Merrily We Go to Hell (1932)

Craig’s Wife (1936)

The Bride Wore Red (1937)

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)

First Comes Courage (1943)

1950 to 1970-Ida Lupino

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Ida Lupino (1918-1995) was born in London and was encouraged by her parents to enter show business. She got her start as an actress. She mainly played tough yet sympathetic characters, and jokingly referred to herself as a “poor man’s Bette Davis.” Some of Ms. Lupino’s most notable roles were in the movies Drive by Night and High Sierra. In 1947, she left the studio system to become a freelance actress. Soon after Ms. Lupino began to focus her talents to behind the camera. Her first directing job came about when Elmer Clifton fell ill during the filming Not Wanted. Not only did Ms. Lupino end up directing the movie, she also shared writing credit.

Not content to direct what we’d call “chick flicks,” Ms. Lupino often directed tough action films. Her films also focused on controversial themes like rape, unwed motherhood and bigamy. She had her own production company and often directed films with no big name stars or huge monetary support from the studios. Her films were the precursor of independent cinema.

In the 1950s Ms. Lupino began to direct TV shows, including The Fugitive, Gilligan’s Island and Bewitched. She was the only woman to direct an episode of The Twilight Zone. In the 1970s, Ms. Lupino returned to acting in small roles. Of women working behind the scenes, she claimed, “I’d love to see more women working as directors and producers. Today it’s almost impossible to do it unless you are an actress or writer with power…I wouldn’t hesitate right this minute to hire a talented woman if the subject matter was right.”

Some other films directed by Ida Lupino:

Outrage (1950)

Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1950)

The Bigamist (1953)

The Hitchhiker (1953)

The Trouble With Angels (1996)

1970 to the Present-Kathryn Bigelow

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Born in 1951 in San Carlos, California, Kathryn Bigelow started her career out as an artist. She worked as a painter, and later got her Master’s degree in film at Columbia where she studied mainly film theory and criticism. She worked briefly as a professor until turning to film directing.

Bigelow’s first film was a 20-minute short called The Set Up. In this film two men fight each other while two others provided voice commentary about the images they are watching. Bigelow’s first full-length feature was a biker movie The Loveless (1982), which she co-directed with Monty Montgomery.

Bigelow has directed both film and TV. Some of her television credits include the notable drama Homicide: Life on the Streets (1997-1998) and the mini-series Wild Palms (1993). Probably one of the most popular of her movies is the action-packed Point Break (1991) starring Keanu Reeves and the late Patrick Swayze.

Bigelow has won widespread critical acclaim for the Oscar-nominated The Hurt Locker, a movie set in Iraq about bomb diffusers. Made on a minuscule budget with mostly unknown actors, Bigelow won a much deserved best directing Oscar on March 7th, 2010.

Bigelow has been considered an anomaly of female directors because her movies often focus on action and suspense, not romance and relationships like the films of the late Nora Ephron or Nancy Myers.

Other films by Kathryn Bigelow:

Near Dark (1987)

Blue Steel (1990)

Strange Days (1995)

The Weight of Water (2000)

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Women continue to make in-roads as film directors. A few names are Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart), Lone Sherfig (An Education), Tamara Jenkins (The Savages) and Mira Nair (The Namesake), Amma Assante  (the soon-to-be-release Where Hands Touch), Oscar-winning documentary film maker Caroline Waterlow (OJ in America) and the late Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Julia and Julie). And Ava DuVernay directed the Oscar-nominated Selma (2014) but wasn’t nominated for a best director Oscar, which didn’t sit well with a lot of people including me.

And just like Ida Lupino and Penny Marshall, actresses are also sitting in the director’s chair. A few of these include Jodie Foster, Angelina Jolie, Sarah Polley, Julie Delpy, Drew Barrymore, Lena Dunham, and the late Adrienne Shelly.

There are countless women now directing films that I couldn’t possibly name them all, but I look forward to learning their names and about their work.

4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (2007)

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It is communist Romania, 1987. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days opens in university dorm room. At first, it just seems to be an ordinary day for any group of college students. They try on make-up, buy illicit cigarettes and talk about mundane topics. But you soon realize something is going on beyond idle chit-chat and daily college activities.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days takes very realistic and gritty look a at two roommates, Gabita (Laura Vasiliu) and Otilia (Anamaria Marinca). Gabita is pregnant and is relying on Otilia to help her procure an abortion. At the time, not only was abortion illegal in Romania, so was birth control. And though the rather dim Gabita is the one in need of an abortion, it is the more pragmatic Otilia who goes through the channels to make sure she gets one.

After leaving the dorm, Otilia starts a bleak journey going from hotel to hotel trying to find a room for Gabita to have an abortion. This can’t be done at the dorms, and obviously, they can’t go to a clinic. After she finally gets a room, she meets with a back-alley abortionist ironically known as Mr. Bebe (Vlad Ivanov). Otilia takes Mr. Bebe to the hotel room where Gabita waits. Chillingly, Mr. Bebe describes the procedure, and shames both Gabita and Otilia for being dirty sluts. While Gabita spends time in the bathroom, Mr. Bebe apparently rapes Otilia. We never see an actual rape scene, but Otilia coming into the bathroom, sans pants and scrubbing herself between her legs gives you a terrifying idea of what happened between her and Mr. Bebe.

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Mr. Bebe discovers Gabita is further along in her pregnancy and demands more money, which the young girls somehow come up with. They will trade both their bodies and their money to go through this procedure. As Mr. Bebe begins the abortion, he becomes very matter of fact on what will happen. During a long shot, we see him insert a probe into Gabita and inject a liquid. There is no idea how long this will take. It could take a few hours or a few days, and Gabita could get sick and die during the procedure. Mr. Bebe does not wait to find out the outcome.

Otilia also has to leave to join her boyfriend’s family for his mother’s birthday party. Otilia doesn’t say much during the dinner, but the look on her face says volumes. As her boyfriend’s family and friends chat about everything from food to schooling, Otilia’s emotions bubble very close to the service. She has no idea what is happening to her friend, and it is driving her mad.

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Otilia soon escapes the party and goes back to the hotel to find out what has happened to Gabita. These two women have gone through a very harrowing experience, but Otilia tells Gabita that they will never talk about ever again. It is as if it has never happened.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is not a pro-life or pro-choice movie. It is a look at two young women living in a world of very few options. Though young, they are world weary and defeated. The scripted dialogue doesn’t hit one false note, and neither do the performances. Ms. Marinca as Otilia is exceptionally good in her role. Without melodramatics, she conveys her character’s struggles in silence using subtle facial expressions. Written and directed by Cristian Mungiu, this movie’s aesthetic choices of no accompanying music and tight, almost claustrophobic camera shots convey the dreariness of moment in time.

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4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is not an easy movie to watch, but never does it ring false. This movie proves not all unexpected pregnancies turn out to be puppies and rainbows. This movie is the anti-Knocked Up and will inspire a great deal of difficult conversations.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days is not rated and is in Romanian with English subtitles.

The Spotlight: Special Oscar Edition

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Some interesting Oscar news,facts and potpourri. Enjoy! UPDATE: ADDED CONTENT COURTESY OF CBS SUNDAY MORNING!!!!

CBS Sunday Morning’s broadcast this morning was devoted to movie and Oscar-related goodness!

The best Oscar speeches since Cuba Gooding Jr.

Vox ranks every Oscars 2017 nominated film.

Oscar predictions according to Huffington Post.

And the New York Times Oscar quizzes and predictions

Here are the top ten most memorable Oscar speeches of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes.

Is Seth Meyers thirsty for an Oscar? Take a look at this trailer and find out.

Bust Magazine on Kathryn Bigelow, the first and so far, only woman to win a best directing Oscar.

Bitch Media takes an entertaining, yet thoughtful take on how the Oscars will or will not distract us from our modern messed times.

USA Today wonders if politics will overshadow the Oscars.

Syrian cinematographer Khaled Khateeb banned from getting into USA to attend Oscars.

Slate Magazine on how the Oscars this year could make history.

The Spotlight

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Movie studios’ plans for the home movie rental  business.

AFI (American Film Institute) 100 Best Movie Songs. My favorite? “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Henry Mancini. My favorite version? Audrey Hepburn’s, of course. I miss her every day.

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Is your movie a “Chick Flick?” Good luck in getting it screened in India.

Yes, I know we’re only two months into 2017, but Thrillist has a list of the best movies of 2017 so far…

Movies that created a buzz at this year’s Sundance.

Here’s a gallery of actors turned directors and their debut films.

The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” about James Baldwin is still timely in 2017.

How Indian film director Mira Nair’s body of work richly portrays the complexity of mixing cultures.

Bitch magazine’s list of the best movies from 1999-2016.

The worst movies of 2016 according to the Razzies. And 10 people who actual showed up to pick up their Razzie. Hmm, I knew there was a reason why I like Sandra Bullock.

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