Festival buzz–Telluride

Destroyer/Can You Ever Forgive Me conversation

Director Marielle Heller, Melissa McCarthy –“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Nicole Kidman, Director Karyn Kusama –“Destroyer”

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache

Director Pamela E Green, “Be Natural”

Robert Redford, Director David Lowery, Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck,  writer David Grann

Writer David Grann, Director Ed Zwick, subject Liz Gilbert, Laura Dern and Jack O’Connell

Patima Tungpuchayakul, Tun Lin, Jeffrey Waldron, Shannon Service, “Ghost Fleet”

The wonderful thing about film festivals is the discoveries…the films you haven’t heard anything about and filmmakers that can share their stories in person. Kicking off the fall festival season, most of us can’t afford to travel to Venice and Toronto Film Festival can be overwhelming. Telluride is a trek — but you don’t need your passport! Here in this tiny mountain town, film lovers begin to build the award season buzz.

It’s challenging to try to see as many films as you want, often you’re too far back in line or there’s a limited amount of seats. That builds an excitement over which films to try to see and everyone seems to have a strategy. As you stand in line with filmmakers, film fans and festival lovers, the one question asked is “What’s been your favorite film?” This year at Telluride, the buzz was for First Man, Can You Ever Forgive Me and Roma. The smaller films that were getting high praise were Shoplifters, Cold War and Girl.

There was talk of this being Nicole Kidman’s year. She has two disparate roles; as the Baptist wife with tall blond hair and lacquered nails in Boy Erased and unrecognizable as the drab damaged detective in the dark L.A. noir, Destroyer. Melissa McCarthy was also almost unrecognizable in person; til she smiled. She’s lost a lot of weight and was a charming guest which made her performance as the hard-drinking forgery artist all the more impressive. The New Yorker writer David Grann was in many conversations as two films, The Old Man & The Gun  and Trail by Fire were based on his articles. The many conversations and interviews, in the park and after the film screenings, add to our enjoyment of the films by revealing layers of meaning and interesting anecdotes shared by the filmmakers.

Two documentaries that I had the pleasure of seeing made my top 10 list. Ghost Fleet, about slave labor in the international seafood industry, stars the heroic Patima Tungpuchayakul. She started a human rights organization to protect children in Thailand from forced labor but she and her husband have spent the last few years traveling to sea in the attempt to free the captives on commercial fishing boats. Many never leave the ships and die at sea but thousands have been rescued and returned home.

Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache is a fascinating documentary with inventive effects and title sequences that move the story at break-neck speed. Director Pamela E. Green has been researching the first woman filmmaker for more than 10 years and her film uncovers amazing details and reconnects many of her contemporary ancestors. A must-see for anyone interested in this forgotten trail blazer of cinema. Alice Guy-Blache directed thousands of films in France and the United States and even ran her own movie studio. Be Natural is a resounding call to rewrite our history to restore Alice Guy-Blache to her rightful place as the first woman filmmaker.

What films made your Top 10 at Telluride? What films will build audience anticipation as the Fall Festival Season continues…we shall see.

Motherhood at the Movies

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Women are making headlines. We’re standing up for our rights and saying #Metoo, #TimesUp and #EqualityNow.  And our voices are being heard. _101312188_hi046747529

An amazing 82 women commanded the red carpet this week at the Cannes Film Festival. They stood in solidarity to show how few women filmmakers have had films in competition in comparison to the 1600 male filmmakers in Cannes’ history. Rallied by the International activist group 5050X2020, their voices were heard and they got results in a pledge to work toward gender parity at this prestigious festival!

There are a wide range of films featuring mothers at your local cineplex. This Mother’s Day, you could see a drama, a rom-com, a thriller and a comedy!  What are the messages these films portray?  It’s clear that women need support in Tully and Overboard:  Charlize Theron gives an extraordinary performance in Tully as a mother pushed to the breaking point by exhaustion and postpartum depression. The writer/director team of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody have crafted an intimate portrait of motherhood and a rare look at one woman’s overwhelming challenges.

Anna Faris is literally Overboard as a working class mother who gets revenge on the pompous millionaire who dumps her off his yacht…by claiming him as her husband. This gender-switch to the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell romantic comedy gives this film a needed update. In this film, the mother has supportive friends and family and her children are in on the joke. The message seems to be that even a playboy can be saved by hard work and the love of a good woman.

Women become warriors if their children are threatened in Breaking In and A Quiet Place:  Gabrielle Union is the Mom-on-a-mission as she rescues her children from the home invaders. The thriller has the tagline: “Payback is a Mother”.  Childbirth never looked so horrific as the scene in A Quiet Place when Emily Blunt is trying to remain silent while giving birth…and she knows that aliens are hunting her family!

If you were looking for a more cheerful look at motherhood, we learn that Moms want to have fun. Melissa McCarthy plays a newly-divorced mother who decides to join her daughter at college. Life of the Party makes it seem like college is a series of fun hi-jinks. The daughter seems chagrined but accepting…and the awkward scenes between the two are played for broad laughs.

Women need support. We can be warriors. And we want to have fun. It’s wonderful to see so many films showcasing the complexities of what it is to be a woman. If you live in a major city, you could celebrate how far we’ve come with Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary, RGB. This intimate look at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is touching, inspiring and a lot of fun. This is a woman who made her mark with the awesome support of her husband, has lead the charge on gender equality and clearly knows how to have fun!

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Read this nice review from The Economist about how the Notorious RGB is a “trailblazer for gender equality”.  It’s the movie all women deserve to see! Let’s all stand for gender equality by supporting films made by women, films starring women and showcasing our stories. Our voices need to be heard!

“Cops vs Capital (Destruction), Bling vs Boys”

Ahhh, Summer-time!  As summer hits The City, with San Francisco in the 80’s this weekend, June slides into July with a big bang, and there is much to celebrate!  In case you aren’t sitting in Dolores Park with a cool beverage, marching or watching a parade or just enjoying the sun and fun…here’s my recommendation for this weekend’s films:

Save White House Down for the July Fourth weekend, when you can show your patriotism with some fun action and big screen destruction.  Instead, get your funny on, and see Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in the cop comedy, The Heat.  We need to turn out in big numbers on this opening weekend to show the studios that Americans want more movies featuring women!  Sure, there are moments of crass humor, but nothing to rival the antics of the “boys” of This is the End.  Perhaps you could rent the men-behaving-like-boys film or wait a week instead?  Everyone should have the freedom of choose…just choose wisely!  Big Brother, the almighty studio, is counting every film dollar!

You could also bring your favorite teenager to The Bling Ring, the latest Sofia Coppola film.  Spending some time with the shallow, bland teens onscreen as they act out their sense of entitlement should give you much to discuss!  The lovely Fill The Void is also directed by a woman and a good film to catch before it leaves theaters.  Or to search out if you don’t live in the Bay Area.

This is the final weekend to see some wonderful queer films at Frameline!  The programming at Frameline 37 is very strong, plus, there’s a wealth of short films (over 50!) and a wide variety of queer Asian films.  Many of these films feature strong female roles and some films were even made with an entire female  film crew!  Huzzah!

I also highly recommend Byzantium (reviewed in an earlier post) with the fabulous Gemma Arterton and soulful Saoirse Ronan playing vampire witches traveling through the centuries.  Directed by Neil Jordan, this atmospheric thriller “isn’t a movie about male appetites. It’s about women who, with blood, power, wit and will, ably satisfy an entirely different hunger.” (http://movies.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/movies/byzantium-draws-on-caribbean-vampire-folklore.html?_r=0), Manohla Dargis

So get out there and enjoy the weekend!  If you seek the cool hush of the cinema, do so to quench the hunger for strong storytelling featuring females!

Also still playing in Bay Area Theaters and featuring women in strong roles (in front of and behind the cameras): The East, Frances Ha, 20 Feet From Stardom and Before Midnight