AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

12/25/08

Revolutionary Road: Fifties Feminist Roots Implode On Screen



At any moment, we expect the depressed, chain smoking gilded cage suburban house pet Winslet to morph into Sylvia Plath, poised to stick her head in the oven, a premature free spirit bloodied Christ figure imprisoned behind a window in a breezy hollow world.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO MY AUDIO CONVERSATION WITH THE CAST AND DIRECTOR OF REVOLUTIONARY ROAD: KATE WINSLET, LEONARDO DICAPRIO, KATHY BATES AND SAM MENDES.

12/20/08

The Spirit Movie Review



CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

In this erotic manic sleuthing laced with backward babes, Paulson does female doormat duty and Eva kicks butt when not baring it, while Scarlett's shrewdie surrounds herself with murderous homicidal fatty clones, like an underworld Madonna bossing around an obedient crew of paunchy boy toys.

12/18/08

The Year In Movies 2008: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

CLICK TO READ ARTICLE HERE

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO MY CONVERSATION WITH ACTOR MICKEY ROURKE ABOUT THE WRESTLER



BLINDNESS: Julianne Moore takes charge of the destroyed planet in this thinking man's sci-fi horror thriller, as a normal woman in a world suddenly afflicted with mass blindness. And she conveys with startling assurance, the pain of human awareness and consciousness in an also symbolically blinded world, that sight can ironically bring.



FROZEN RIVER: A gut-wrenching, contemporary economic hard times thriller, as two ballsy Canadian border single moms - white and Mohawk - are pressured into lives as smugglers of abused immigrants into the US, across the dangerous icy waters of the St. Lawrence River. Alternately heartbreaking and terrifying.

THE GOOD THE BAD, AND THE UGLY: MY RADIO COMMENTARY ABOUT THE YEAR IN MOVIES, CLICK HERE

12/16/08

Just Another Love Story

Ole Bornedal: Director



If you watched ten to twenty films a week, would you go to see a film entitled "Just Another Love Story"?
No surprise, the New York press did not show up for this screening, other than myself and one other brave soul. If the film had been entitled, "Not Just anther love Story" maybe the Scandinavian House would have had a full compliment of press to preview their forthcoming award winning film. But then that would have compromised the intent of the Director.

Ole Bornedal is a gifted, seasoned film director who displays in this professional work of art his disdain for Hollywood, for the way films that are about love gone awry are done. That said, there are also moments of extraordinary brilliance, the photography is often breath taking and the back and forth of the narrative is done with a magnificent finesse. But the ending goes on and on for almost seven minutes and the message is too thin to support such a protracted termination.

One wonders if we are made to suffer this endless ending because the Director is angry with us, the Hollywood audience or because he doesn't know how to end his films or the protracted ending is saying, as does the film, we are never satisfied. We always want more and more and in the end, that thirst for more destroys the value of what is; something akin to the American tendency to over eat. Food tastes good on the first helping but by the third, it is nauseating.


Plot: Pretty single wealthy girl and good family man/husband/father to two perfect young children meet, engage in an emotional protracted and almost promising exchange before circumstances ( the return of a former boyfriend of ill repute and heinous behavior) force them apart . And true to the state of the art, of film noir(black) all characters end up less than they started; marginalized by the powers that be and our superior knowledge of what makes a man, a man: a woman, a woman.


Recommendation: Mixed. I hated the film while I saw it but in retrospect, it gets better and better. Of particular note is the violent act that at first seems justified and then turns into something ridiculous, over the top, a violent moment of "Descent" revisited.


Opens January 9: in New York City
Village Cinema


Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective

Seven Pounds Movie Review




Suicide by jellyfish, don't ask. Paging Dr. Kevorkian.


CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

12/14/08

Yes Man: A Tale Of Two Hotties




There's the usual grotesque older woman sex maniac (Fionnula Flanagan) minus dentures, who's always the butt of chuckling scorn in these sorts of comedies. So how come nearly the same age difference between Carrey and Flanagan also exists between Carrey and that goofy big bangs brunette Deschanel off screen, but when it's an older guy rather than an older woman, it's all about romance and not ridicule.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

12/12/08

Cadillac Records
2008
Director: Darnell Martin
Cast: Jeffrey Wright, Beyoncé Knowles, Adrian Brody

About half way through Darnell Martin’s Cadillac Records, there’s enough of a lull that you wonder suddenly, where is Beyoncé Knowles anyway? We’ve met Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Little Walter the teen-age mouth-harp prodigy (Columbus Short), Howlin’ Wolf (riveting British actor Eamonn Walker) and Chuck Berry (Mos Def). So where’s Beyoncé? After all, she’s one of the movie’s major draws as legendary platinum blond blues singer Etta James in her early days on Chicago’s Chess Records label. One of the most enduring discoveries of Chess’ founder, Polish immigrant Leonard Chess (Adrian Brody), multiple Grammy-winner James, spectacularly troubled then, has survived most of the film’s other characters. She released her most recent album, All the Way, in 2006, and her signature rendition of the torch song “At Last” graces more than twenty film and television sound-tracks.

So it’s one of the film’s pleasures – and its story-telling accomplishments – that just as you wonder where a character is, just when the story has unfolded in such a way as to demand her appearance, there she is.

In this richly ambiguous, compact scene, Chess – who scoured the South for Black talent during his label’s run from 1950-69 – meets James because she’s brought to his hotel room for an impromptu audition by his brother Phil (the only appearance in the film of Chess’ actual business partner, but more about that script decision below). The film is narrated by Chess Records’ major songwriter Willie Dixon (Cedric the Entertainer), who says as the hotel room door swings open - by way of transition from the last scene and setting up the double meanings about talent and sex and tenderness and money and resentment and gratitude and who’s in charge that thread through all the future interactions between James and Chess – that Leonard Chess “was looking for women too...”

Helping herself to a seat on his bed, James asks if “we’re gonna do it right now?” Yes, says Chess, he’s leaving town in the morning. Well, it’s hard, counters James, “when you’re not in the mood.” “She’s not in the mood!” mutters an exasperated Chess. Then James strolls into the bathroom and from there starts singing, shyly at first. Of course there are two revelations here – what the Chess brothers heard, and Beyoncé herself. Then Willie Dixon finishes his sentence: “… he was looking for a woman to go up against his men.”

This film might have unfolded in another, more expected way. Martin has said that Columbia Pictures wanted a standard Leonard Chess biopic. In that scenario, the doomed romance rumored between Chess and James would have taken center stage early, leaving little room for the four male musicians on whom Martin spends the first half of her film, and little sense of what going “up against them” might actually mean for James as a musician. James would hardly be a musician at all in that scenario, but instead – you know the type - a naïve, unschooled, rawly talented force of nature.

Instead of that standard biopic, Martin set out to portray the music and the musicians coming out of the great mid-century migration north (we meet Muddy Waters in 1941, share-cropping in Mississippi, listening to Alan Lomax’s quavery recording of himself, saying “I feel like I’m meeting myself for the first time,” before he lights out for Chicago), how R & B became “popular” and “crossed over” (besides appealing to white bobby-soxers, Chuck Berry successfully sued the Beach Boys for stealing his “Sweet Little 16” and passing it off as their own in the hit “Surfin’ USA”), how the music overlapped with and influenced the Civil Rights movement (Howlin’ Wolf immediately sets Chess straight about who gives orders to his band members and Little Walter’s response to white cops personifies a tidal shift). Since Martin makes room for these characters up front instead of using them as background – and they are all superbly played – when they find Chess is looting their royalties, that betrayal has real bite because you know them as well as you know him.

And by removing Phil Chess, Martin replaces the standard two-white-brothers narrative – a huge space occupier – with a very different “story of two men,” as Willie Dixon calls it at the start. By using alternating scenes to introduce and follow Chess in his pre-impresario days – junkyard owner dreaming of buying a bar – and Mississippi share-cropper Muddy Waters, Martin structurally underscores the parallel importance of their stories. And that’s only the beginning of dramatic parallels between them – for example, each has a decent and long-suffering wife, and brief but personal, nuanced exchanges of the sort that occur, when you think about it, between equals. Now some reviewers don’t like this movie, I suspect because it so disrupts expectations of what – and who – it “should” have been about. So you better see it quick. Like Bryan Barber’s Idlewild – remember how that film, so steeped in a wonderful fluency with its screen musical forebears, was dismissed by critics as “derivative”? – it might only be here for a minute.

Review by Nancy Keefe Rhodes

Darnell Martin wrote and directed two previous features, I Like it Like That (1994) and Prison Song (2001), and directed Suzan-Lori Parks’ script for Their Eyes Were Watching God (2005). All three are available on DVD.

12/10/08

Frost/Nixon
Ron Howard

This film has been talked about on channel 13 Charlie Rose and talked about in the press and talked about and talked about so why see it?

I saw the original TV Frost/Nixon interview. I remember ex-President Nixon and where I was when I saw him, live on TV, resigning the Presidency. Why go back there again?

Because this is the guts of history, the moment when we can see into the wheels that turn to create the quality of our lives. And here we have another expose on the President and on how television works or fails to work and a close-up focused on an intensely lonely man who we all hated because we hadn't met up with the likes of George W Bush.

At the hands of Ron Howard, Director and Peter Morgan writer Nixon appears as a tragic historical figure for whom one could almost feel sorry if he hadn't destroyed so much of what people were taught to believe or been responsible for so many deaths and so much physical destruction.

Maybe Nixon did us all a big favor. He appears to epitomize the home grown boy no one wants to claim as their own. Just by being Nixon: corrupt, monomaniacal, devious, liar, manipulator. He could be a big time drug dealer, a Blackwater guns for hire or Governor of Illinois.

The question remains; how can we raise our children to be nothing like Nixon or George W Bush or all the other corrupt politicians who people our World. Their lack of compromise, their failure to invoke the power of negotiation before the bullet or the bomb, their failure to work within the legal boundaries of the system is legendary.

See Nixon suffer. Watch him squirm, watch his face distort with emotion that no one ever thought he had.

Frank Langella's acting is superb and should earn him an Oscar.

Of course you will see this film. The only question is, at what age should children see it.

Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective
CARGO 200 A VOYAGE INTO LIVING HORROR, RUSSIAN STYLE
Direcor: Aleksei Balabanov

Plot:
CARGO 200 begins in 1984 with the introduction of two brothers: a Soviet Army colonel, and the head of the Faculty of Scientific Communism at Leningrad University. The university professor travels to visit his mother in a remote town. When his car brakes down, he stops at a rural farmhouse occupied by a husband, wife and their Vietnamese farm hand. The professor engages in a philosophical argument about the existence of God with the family patriarch, whose heated criticisms of official atheism are fueled by Utopian dreams and vodka distilled in the family barn.

Meanwhile, a young man and the daughter of a Soviet secretary of a regional party committee meet at a party. The couple decides to take a drive, and their destination is the rural farmhouse. Lurking in the shadows of the farmhouse is Zhurov, a character vaguely based on Russian serial killer Gennady Mikhasevich. Although Mikhasevich was simply a depraved lunatic, Balabanov presents Zhurov as an emblem of both human perversion and the manifest corruption of the Soviet government. Zhurov’s appearance signals a series of loathsome events that form the rest of the film's narrative.

COMMENTARY
Aleksei Balabanov is a strong anti communist. He is also a gifted film maker and Cargo 200 is a testament to his genius.
He knows how to twist the truth just enough to create a film that is truly vile There I was riveted to the screen, to the story and even the gory details did not prompt me to get up, get out of sight of this extravaganza of a smite on a regime that I can not truly embrace.
Communism in Russia in the 1980s couldn't have been so corrupt, so difficult to live under. Certainly it wasn't as bad as Stalin but according to this director my impression is wrong.
He has made a film that simulates and pretends to be a documentary when in fact it is a function of his imagination, one that is filmed with material taken from real life, using actors who appear; to be ordinary non actor people but the truth remains, Cargo 200 is a film and not a documentary.

This is an important distinction. Confusion of this sort is the basis of the most deceptive propaganda. Every frame, every moment is designed to bring to the attention of an unknowing viewer the horrors of Communism, Russian style that many consider not communist but a totalitarian resign without the fundamentals of a communist economic system. And what is it now? Hasn't an upper middle class been created at the expense of the quality of life of the working class. History needs more of a conversation than Balabanov has offered.

I don't know whether to recommend the film to be seen or to be avoided but it is certainly a controversial film

You decide. On a night when you are teetering on boredom this film will push you far away from this uncomfortable emotional mundane state of human existence.


opens in New York on January 2, 2009

Linda Z
WBAI Women's Collective

12/8/08

Doubt: The Devil Wears A Habit





Why are our most esteemed older actresses always relegated to all those ghastly shrew roles. And there's something awfully hypocritical and, yes, sexist about these entire proceedings. And it's not just those shamelessly manipulative scenes of the priests making merry over wine and sumptuous dinners in their separate quarters, while the nuns pick over their unappetizing looking meals like fussy crones with chronic indigestion.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

12/7/08

The Duchess: A Commentary




Ms. Miller:

I have been reading movie reviews of "The Duchess" and you are the only reviewer that understood the main point of the movie. Right away, I made the connection between Georgiana's era and Hillary Clinton being told to go home and iron her husband's shirts..... over 200 years later. Such progress. Women are still assigned roles and there are still plenty of "Dukes" trying to keep them in their place. I guess, we not only owe Hillary and her ilk a big thank you , but the Georgianas', too, who fought back to the best of their ability during their era. When I was a young woman, you would have been allowed to write only in the society pages and I am not that old. Thus, we would have been deprived of your keen insight. I will be following your reviews from now on.

Sincerely,
Judy L.

ALL OF US: Director Emily Abt

This is a documentary to inspire, to make us aware of the seriousness of the issue of HIV/Aids and the ill health in prisons and in the army to say we have had enough ineffective action. We all must get involved to save ourselves, to save the planet.

If this sounds like something you have heard before, it is and that is what makes this documentary noteworthy It is done in such a way that every woman who sees it can say yes, this has happened to me, I have been in a "compromising" position with a man, when I wanted to say no, when I did say no and yet, he prevailed.


There is something fundamentally wrong with how men and women relate to one another and that is a strong sub-plot of this film. it is not up to women to change but men must become the focus of effort-to-remedy for any change of note to take place.

Now is the time. It is always the time but Pureland films has given us new reason, new inspiration to renew our efforts.

the photography is outstanding and the editing is close to perfect. It is compelling, emotional and heart warming to know women can and do make films that make a difference

If you can't see it in the movies, rent the DVD or ask your librarian to get it for all to see, free of charge. Or you can support the cause by purchasing the DVD from the website
www.allofusthemovie.com.




Linda Z
WBAI Women'Collective

12/6/08

While She Was Out: Battered Wife Get-Even Thriller



Kim Basinger does a Dirty Harriet in this weapons of asskicker destruction, pit bull with lipstick get-even suburban housewife thriller. And without bringing Alec Baldwin into it, you do the math.

CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE

Day The Earth Stood Still Movie Review


CLICK TO READ REVIEW HERE