Women-Directed/Photographed Films Coming to Theaters: February 2017

Director Amma Asante with cast and crew on the set of A United Kingdom, 2016.

Here are fifteen new movies due to be released in theaters or via other viewing platforms this February, all of which have been directed and/or photographed by women. These titles are sure to intrigue cinephiles and also provoke meaningful discussions on the film world, as well as the world in general.

FEBRUARY 1: The Lure (dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska)Consequence of Sound post by Dominick Suzanne-Mayer: “Last year’s Sundance Film Festival offered a wealth of quality films, but of those that left a lasting impression, few were as bold as The Lure, Agnieszka Smoczynska’s striking feature-length debut about a pair of bloodthirsty mermaids who find indulgence and tragedy in modern-day Poland. Oh, and it’s also a musical. More of a new wave rock opera, really.

“The premise alone should be enough to get your attention, but Smoczynska’s film offers far more than just a gimmick; rather, as we discovered at Sundance (one of a legion of festivals the film hit last year), ‘The Lure somehow manages to seamlessly assemble a film equal parts hilarious, affecting, and grisly while trading and warping aesthetics and tones by the scene.’ It’s a wild piece of filmmaking, and the perfect antidote for the jaded moviegoer who thinks they’ve seen it all. Trust us, you haven’t seen anything quite like this before, and the film’s first trailer gives a pretty good taste of what audiences can expect, while holding back on some of the best stuff.

The Lure will debut at New York’s IFC Center on February 1st, and will hopefully appear elsewhere as the year goes on. In the meantime, a bit more about the film: ‘In this bold, genre-defying horror-musical mashup — the playful and confident debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska — a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters are drawn ashore in an alternate ’80s Poland to explore the wonders and temptations of life on land. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly aura make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers in the half-glam, half-decrepit fantasy world of Smoczynska’s imagining. In a visceral twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s original Little Mermaid tale, one sister falls for a human, and as the bonds of sisterhood are tested, the lines between love and survival get blurred. A savage coming-of-age fairytale with a catchy new-wave soundtrack, lavishly grimy sets, and outrageous musical numbers, The Lure explores its themes of sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with energy and originality.'”

FEBRUARY 3: Dark Night (dir. Tim Sutton) (DP: Hélène Louvart)Excerpts from Collider review by Chris Cabin: “It’s understandable and yet slightly misleading that there has been a direct connection between the Aurora massacre of 2013 and Dark Night, Tim Sutton‘s new film about a Florida community where one resident is planning a similar attack. Footage of the trial of James Holmes, the young man who shot 10 people dead in Aurora while they watched The Dark Knight Rises, is seen within 10 minutes of the film’s opening and is discussed, fleetingly, by those watching it. Images of a young man coloring his buzzed hair the same tint of fiery orange and red as Holmes show up throughout the film, as the man skateboards and hangs out with friends. The final, devastating shot features a gunman sneaking into a theater through the back door, just as Holmes did.

“These fragmented nods and allusions toward what happened in Aurora are unmistakable for those who followed the case but Dark Night, smartly and thankfully, doesn’t attempt to recreate the events leading up to Holmes’ massacring of innocents. One would be hard-pressed to simply explain Dark Night‘s narrative progression as there isn’t an easy way to describe the narrative itself. Sutton, the director behind 2014’s exquisite Memphis, offers what amounts to an abstraction of everyday life in the unnamed Florida neighborhood, which could essentially double for any sunny place in the United States. A woman exercises and takes a selfie with her morning smoothie; a pair of teens stay glued to their glowing cellphones; a veteran watches his nurse wife walk out on him for good; a boy plays with his pet snake, alone in his bedroom. Elsewhere, one young man imagines walking into a fury of photographers and journalists asking for his motives, and another trudges through his neighborhood with an assault rifle.

Dark Night is not particularly interested in conveying the horror of Aurora or any similar event, though Sutton works up a consistent sense of dread that consistently infiltrates his images and the impressionistic flow of the editing. Rather, Sutton’s film at once questions and embraces the idea of symbolic acts and images. The young man who walks into a cadre of reporters and angry protestors could be imagining that encounter, but he could also be remembering it. Is one to assume the clearly frustrated and angry veteran may be a shooter because of his training? There’s at least one scene where we see his proficiency at taking apart and cleaning his gun but Sutton’s depiction of this exercise is more similar to a mechanic taking apart part of an engine than anything malevolent. This is less true of the man with the assault rifle.

“…The first image of the film is of a young woman’s eyes roaming around as sequenced colored light bounces off her face. It might take you a few seconds before you realize that she’s not watching a screen but cop cars, ambulances, and fire engines in the parking lot outside the theater. Other moments – kids swimming in pools, a college student getting an academic warning behind closed doors, etc. – similarly feel plain but Sutton’s sobriety doesn’t hull out the film’s powerful emotional core. His eye for detail and modernity, such as when he fills the screen with an online street-view app, is sober and exacting but he also finds potent moments of fury and caring. In fact, Sutton consistently returns to an interview he’s doing with the young man who imagined the reporters.

“In fact, Sutton consistently returns to an interview he’s doing with the young man who imagined the reporters and his mother, who has nothing but loving and supporting things to say about her son; he also has a best friend who he talks to nonstop while they play online video games. The director is asking us to look as much at what makes people get along in life as the visual indicators of a violent act, to see the elements that support this admittedly docile, boring, and often superficial existence and cultivate the more heartening and genuinely good moments in your life.

“Even as the filmmaker heads towards yet another terrifying assault, Dark Night is as much about gloom as it is astonishment, to see the power of an act or an image to either turn someone into a killer or to inspire them toward empathy. Aside from his interview with the young man and his mother, Sutton only comes out from behind the camera one more time, to speak with the gunman about his movie-star look. One is left wondering if he’s speaking about the fame that this movie might bring him or the all-too-familiar infamy that comes with national tragedies.”

FEBRUARY 3: This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous (dir. Barbara Kopple)RogerEbert.com review by Matt Fagerholm: “They stare directly at you and invite you to be a part of their conversation. They reveal intimate details about their lives in order to normalize what certain parts of society still consider taboo. They tell us that we needn’t be anything other than ourselves, and how can we resist liking them for that? That is the power a person has when they post a video on YouTube. The bond that viewers forge with an Internet celebrity is stronger than has ever been achieved in any other medium. For people who have trouble relating to others, watching these video confessionals can serve as a half-step toward human connection. We’ve already entered the age of Fahrenheit 451, where “friends” primarily exist on screens that take up the majority of our attention. Yet the best YouTubers are the ones who encourage their viewers to turn their attention inward and engage with the world existing outside of their laptops. When Alexis G. Zall comes out by saying she “likes girls,” or when Brad Jones opens up about surviving a suicide attempt, they aren’t just providing a diversion, they are changing lives through the empowerment of truth.

This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, the latest work from master documentarian Barbara Kopple (available on YouTube Red starting February 8th), focuses on the truth of one particular YouTuber whose sense of self is only strengthened online. Born Gregory Lazzarato in 1994, he excelled at diving throughout his childhood, winning a national championship at age 15. Yet in home video footage of the young boy, his face has the sort of uneasy expression any viewer of TLC’s ‘I Am Jazz’ will immediately recognize. There’s no question he feels uncomfortable in his skin, and is much more interested in filming makeup tutorials than he is with stereotypical male activities. The videos he posts as ‘Gregory Gorgeous’ gain a greater following once he identifies himself as gay, and at 100,000 subscribers, his channel attracts the attention of manager Scott Fisher, who understands the profitability of vloggers. Fisher explains to Kopple how sites like YouTube have enabled talent to maintain unprecedented control over their content, while earning the lion’s share of the revenue, something that could’ve never happened a mere handful of years ago.

“In many ways, this film is a fitting follow-up to Kopple’s Miss Sharon Jones!, a rousing portrait of the titular soul singer who passed away last year. Just as Jones triumphantly forged ahead in her life and career in the aftermath of her cancer diagnosis, earning a Grammy nomination in the process, Gregory comes to a pivotal realization after his loving mother succumbs to cancer in 2012. Faced with the fragility of life and the limited time afforded to each of us on Earth, the young man decides to finally act on his inner-most desire, and that is to live the rest of his life as a woman. The ‘he’ of her past is officially no more. Though her brothers are entirely in support of her transition, the news is more difficult for her father, David, to accept. In an emotional interview with Kopple, he affirms that it is a father’s duty to love his children even if he doesn’t understand them. Renaming herself as Gigi Lazzarato, she smuggles her camera into a visit with her dad, where she tells him of her plans to undergo facial feminization surgery, a procedure that will cost $14,000. When he asks her if she has that kind of money, Gigi informs him that she’s already paid for it. Though David still occasionally uses male pronouns while addressing Gigi, there is no doubt in his mind that his child knows exactly what she wants. He accompanies her to appointments with the physician, and later with the Beverly Hills doctor that will give her breast implants. In a lingering shot, the camera regards from a wide angle the tender image of David gently tucking his daughter into bed in their hotel room as she recovers from her latest surgery.

“It is in observant, delicately nuanced moments like these where Kopple’s genius shines the brightest. She has crafted so many unforgettable films about inspirational life forces, from the courageous wives of coal miners in Harlan County, U.S.A. to the politically outspoken Dixie Chicks in Shut Up & Sing, and this is one of her best. Gigi’s exuberant presence makes the picture a complete joy from beginning to end, as Kopple seamlessly weaves her own documentation of her subject’s journey with footage from Gigi’s videos, where she guides viewers along every step of her external transformation. There’s an especially intriguing video that depicts Gigi having a conversation with her male persona, and her macho posturing comes off as all the more artificial when directly contrasted with her feminine self. Fisher notes that whereas Gregory yearned to stand out from the crowd, Gigi’s goal is to blend in, finding acceptance from others on her own terms. Yet aside from the testosterone blockers and estrogen, Gigi believes that the transition undergone by a transgender person is more mental than anything else, and doesn’t necessarily require a change of genitalia. As Gigi sits in a car, calm and confident in her body, Kopple brilliantly juxtaposes her footage with the voice of Gregory, encouraging his viewers to be themselves. This one scene conveys the unchanging nature of identity regardless of one’s physical state with more clarity and impact than the entirety of Cloud Atlas. Though the film culminates with Gigi’s participation in New York Fashion Week, where she struts the runway looking like Lady Liberty, an even more satisfying highpoint occurs at David’s wedding to his second wife. It’s the first time much of Gigi’s extended family has seen her post-operation, and when she walks down the aisle, her elation radiates through the screen.

“One of the questions raised by Kopple’s film is whether Gigi will choose to take the advice of her new manager and alter her image in order to attract more sponsors. I doubt it. While actors in Hollywood often have to compromise their own identities in order to be more commercially viable, YouTubers like Gigi make a fortune by being true to themselves. She embodies the wisdom of a young generation infinitely more accepting of gender fluidity than their predecessors. There’s a chilling resonance to the moment where Gigi reflects on the legacy of German physician Magnus Hirschfeld, and the Nazis that attempted to silence his groundbreaking advocacy for gay and transgender rights. If current events have proven anything, it’s that the threat of such intolerance remains frighteningly real. Yet sometimes, all one has to do is look a person in the eye in order to change their heart. That is how a revolution begins.”

FEBRUARY 7: Almost Adults (dir. Sarah Rotella) [available on iTunes]Synopsis from the film’s official website: “This comedy feature follows two best friends in their final year of college while they transition into adulthood. One embraces her sexuality and tries to catch up on everything she has missed during her teenage years, while the other ends a long term relationship with her boyfriend and discovers her life isn’t going as planned. Both struggle to keep their friendship together as they begin growing apart.”

FEBRUARY 10 [delayed from previous January release date]: Kedi (dir. Ceyda Torun)Synopsis from the film’s official website: “Hundreds of thousands of Turkish cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame — and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.

“Critics and internet cats agree — this cat documentary will charm its way into your heart and home as you fall in love with the cats in Istanbul.”

FEBRUARY 10: Land of Mine [Current Oscar Nominee: Best Foreign Language Film] (dir. Martin Zandvliet) (DP: Camilla Hjelm Knudsen)Excerpts from Screen Daily review by David D’Arcy: “Denmark’s mistreatment of German prisoners after World War II, a little-known chapter of post-war history, is a powerful j’accuse in Land of Mine, which may surprise all but specialised historians. The film revisits the Allies’ practice of using captured Germans to clear land mines on the Danish coast that would blow many of them to bits. There’s also humanity here in the bond that forms between a stern Danish sergeant (Roland Moller) and the adolescent POWs in his charge.

“…At war’s end, some 1.5 million mines placed by the Nazis remained on Denmark’s west coast. Defusing them was a national urgency. Rather than use Danes who had sacrificed so much during the Nazi occupation, British liberators proposed that the Danish government deploy thousands of Wehrmacht POWs on Danish territory for the job. At least half of them died at that task from May to October 1945.

Land of Mine isn’t the first account that suggests that the Danes committed a war crime. Nor is it the first examination of brutality against defeated Germans in 1945. What’s new is that those charges of Danish misdeeds are being brought to a wide audience in the language of epic cinema. Zandvliet (A Funny Man, 2011, Applause, 2009) picks up the story as a vengeful Danish officer assigns a stern sergeant (Moller) to manage a brigade of boy prisoners conscripted late in the war. Moller’s ox-like character makes that severity look a lot like sadism, until the cruelty of his British and Danish superiors and the deadliness of the job draw out his protective instincts.

“…The tension builds on the impressive composure of German and Swiss teenage actors (many of them already television veterans), including the endearing twins Emil and Oskar Belton – still not yet 16 – who play brothers who are captured in Germany’s dying days. With some adroit promotion, the young cast could be a strong selling point in German-speaking countries and beyond.

“The sand dunes of Denmark’s Skallingen peninsula (finally declared mine-free in 2012) are a huge canvas for cinematographer Camilla Hjelm Knudsen, the director’s wife, who evokes a desert-like vastness reminiscent of a David Lean landscape for boys forced into a labour of futility. The motif of teenagers marching into those expanses drives home the grim truth that wars don’t end when the belligerent commanders declare the fighting to be over.”

FEBRUARY 10: One Night (dir. Minhal Baig)The Austin Chronicle’s Austin Film Fest review by Sarah Marloff: “Dabbling in magical realism, Minhal Baig’s One Night toys with the theme of traveling back in time. The idea that the past is simultaneously more simple and more magical is both questioned and contemplated throughout the film, which follows two couples over the course of prom night.

“Within the walls of a Los Angeles hotel, the debut feature from writer/director Baig weaves a compelling story and honest look at love and relationships – from falling in to falling apart. High school seniors Bea (Isabelle Fuhrman) and Andy (Kyle Allen) are accidentally thrown together when their prom ends and the afterparty begins. Elizabeth (Anna Camp of Pitch Perfect) and Drew (Justin Chatwin), on the other hand, are young adults who seem to have mistakenly chosen the hotel hosting that same prom to rehash (or repair?) their failing marriage.

“The juxtaposition of watching two people becoming a couple – the enchantment of being 17 and completely awed by another human – with the cold realities of a struggling long-term relationship offers viewers a glimpse at relationship reality. Hollywood is forever obsessed with the happily ever after ending, but life and love are far too complex to allow for a simple skipping off into the sunset – or sunrise – as the case may be. One Night doesn’t hold back from this. Relationships are hard work and sometimes love simply cannot overcome the mundane difficulties of life.

“Though very beautifully weaved, at times the film’s dialogue seems unsure of itself, specifically between Elizabeth and Drew. Are they actors acting like they’re acting or are they two adults trying to play make believe? At first it’s hard to tell, perhaps because Baig wasn’t entirely sure either. But as the story unravels, the actors and the script find their footing. Bea and Andy, however, never falter in convincing the audience of their 17-year-old, smart-ass naivete. Together they manage to steal the show and infuse the film with hope. In the warm light of day, One Night is an endearing look at what makes and what keeps a relationship alive.”

FEBRUARY 10: Sex Doll (dir. Sylvie Verheyde)IFC Films synopsis: “A high-priced call girl navigates the shadowy world of London’s sex trade underground in this provocative, erotic thriller. Virginie (César Award winner Hafsia Herzi) goes about her work as a prostitute with a cool detachment, trading sex with wealthy businessmen for money, but never getting emotionally involved. That all changes when she meets Rupert (Ash Stymest), an enigmatic stranger with unclear intentions. Risking everything, Virginie plunges into a dangerous affair that tears her between a ruthless madame who forbids romantic attachments and a dark, sexy man who could be her savior or her downfall.”

FEBRUARY 10: Speed Sisters (dir./DP: Amber Fares)Cinema Village synopsis: “The Speed Sisters are the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Grabbing headlines and turning heads at improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five women have sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. Weaving together their lives on and off the track, Speed Sisters takes you on a surprising journey into the drive to go further and faster than anyone thought you could.”

FEBRUARY 10: A United Kingdom (dir. Amma Asante)Excerpts from The Guardian review by Mark Kermode: “…Eye in the Sky screenwriter Guy Hibbert’s screenplay (from Susan Williams’s 2006 book Colour Bar) revisits an often forgotten chapter of postwar history that might be filed under ‘stranger than fiction.’ Rosamund Pike is Ruth Williams, a clerk from Blackheath, south London, working in Lloyds of London in 1947, who is swept off her feet by handsome law student Seretse Khama (Oyelowo). Ruth doesn’t know that Seretse is an African king in waiting, leader-to-be of the Bamangwato people of Bechuanaland (later Botswana), the British protectorate to which he is due to return on completion of his studies.

“When Seretse proposes, having duly explained his true identity, Ruth imagines a new life away from the misty drizzle of London, a life that, she assures her fiance, will be taken ‘moment by moment – together.’ But when the news of this high-profile black-and-white union reaches neighbouring South Africa, whose National party is busy enshrining apartheid in law, the cash-strapped British authorities move first to forbid and then to undermine the marriage, scared of alienating their supplier of cheap gold and uranium. Seretse’s regent uncle, Tshekedi Khama (Vusi Kunene), also refuses to countenance a white queen and a rift develops that threatens to tear apart more than just love.

“Handsomely shot on locations in the UK and Botswana by Sam McCurdy, A United Kingdom contrasts sweeping exteriors with fusty interiors, breathing rich visual life into the battle between an entrenched establishment and an emerging republic. Production designer Simon Bowles and composer Patrick Doyle clearly relish the broad canvas opportunities of the narrative, while Asante cites Richard Attenborough and David Lean as her guiding lights.

“For all the film’s vibrant grandeur, though, our attention is kept tightly focused on the central couple’s romance, even when they are separated by geography, economics and politics. Much is made of the world-turned-upside-down absurdity of Labour prime minister Clement Attlee’s obsequious loyalty to South Africa while the Conservative Churchill appears to be an ally of Khama’s progressive cause (although pragmatism soon overrides opposition promises), but it’s the wholly believable and tangible bond between Oyelowo’s Seretse and Pike’s Ruth that delivers the real emotional punch.

“…’I want to make pieces of entertainment and art that mean something,’ Asante recently told the BBC while musing upon her forthcoming film, Where Hands Touch, a longstanding passion project about a relationship between a bi-racial girl and a Hitler Youth boy in 1930s Berlin. ‘I want to make movies that leave some kind of mark on you.’ With A United Kingdom she has done just that.”

FEBRUARY 17: American Fable (dir. Anne Hamilton)Variety’s SXSW review by Andrew Barker: “If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then writer-director Anne Hamilton’s American Fable registers as an eloquently constructed valentine to Guillermo del Toro, whose Pan’s Labyrinth provides her film with its haunting backbone. Gorgeously shot, and helmed with a sense of daring and verve that belies Hamilton’s greenness to feature filmmaking, this is a debut of obvious promise, although its story never quite rises to the level of its craft. Premiering in the experimental Visions program at SXSW, this tale of farmland intrigue as seen through the eyes of a dreamy 11-year-old has just as much arthouse potential as many of the supposedly more commercial entries in the narrative competition, though it may ultimately function best as a passport to bigger things for its gifted young director.

“Hamilton’s introduction to filmmaking came via an internship with Terrence Malick on the set of The Tree of Life, and the director’s tendrils are visible from the very first shot, a dramatically swooning overhead view of a young girl chasing a chicken through monstrous expanses of corn stalks. The girl is Gitty (Peyton Kennedy, excellent), an imaginative, friendless grade schooler growing up in the farmlands of Wisconsin. The year is 1982, and overheard Ronald Reagan speeches place us right in at the beginning of the farm crisis, its gravity underscored by passing mentions of the rash of suicides in town.

“Gitty adores her father, the salty Abe (Kip Pardue), who does everything he can to distract her from the fact that they’re in dire danger of losing their farm. Her factory-worker mother (Marci Miller) is pregnant with a third child, and Gitty’s older brother, Martin (Gavin MacIntosh), is a study in unhinged, unmodulated malevolence.

“Wandering the farmlands on her bike, she makes a startling discovery: Locked inside her family’s unused silo is a dirty yet expensively dressed man calling himself Jonathan (Richard Schiff) who claims to have gone days without food. Though he’s short on details, Jonathan is a developer who’s been buying up farms in the area, and it doesn’t take long for Gilly to intuit that her own family has played some part in this kidnapping. As she begins bringing him food and books, the two develop a bond, with Gitty rappelling down through a small hole in the silo roof for chess lessons and reading sessions.

“Meanwhile, Gitty’s father conducts some mysterious business with a Mephistophelean woman named Vera (Zuleikha Robinson), and Gitty begins to experience visions of a black-clad, horned woman striding through the countryside on horseback. These hesitant forays into the mythological realm — reaching a feverish peak with a flashy dream sequence — feel oddly underdeveloped, alternating between inscrutable and needlessly obvious, with a long montage accompanying a recitation of Yeats’ ‘The Second Coming’ a prime example of the latter.

“One of the strongest cues Hamilton takes from Pan’s Labyrinth, however, is the decision to allow Gitty’s own loyalties and misunderstandings to dictate the film’s p.o.v., and Kennedy ably carries the film on her back, radiating self-confidence while retaining an essential naivete and vulnerability; her many scenes of peering through doorways at conversations she doesn’t quite understand are beautifully played. Yet even accounting for this, the intrigue at the film’s center never makes total sense, and Gitty’s ultimate ethical dilemma — whether to leave Jonathan to his fate or put her own family at risk — never arrives with the right urgency. The shoehorned introduction of a few too many extraneous elements, especially a Marge Gunderson-esque retired police officer (Rusty Schwimmer), doesn’t help.

“Working with d.p. Wyatt Garfield, Hamilton shoots the rural landscape with a transformative eye. These farmlands aren’t dusty expanses but rather humid, almost primordial jungles; individual frames from nighttime scenes in the family barn could easily be oil paintings of the Nativity. More than just cataloguing pretty shots, Hamilton builds an arresting aura of wonder and terror, of which Gingger Shankar’s haunting, teasing score is very much a piece.”

FEBRUARY 17: Everybody Loves Somebody (dir. Catalina Aguilar Mastretta)The Hollywood Reporter’s Palm Springs International Film Festival review by Stephen Farber: “One of the crowd-pleasing world premiere films shown this year in Palm Springs is a bilingual romantic comedy, Everybody Loves Somebody, which doesn’t break any new ground thematically but still manages to make an appealing addition to the rom-com genre. Pantelion Films will release it in the U.S. and should find a sympathetic audience, especially if the picture is shrewdly marketed in parts of the country with sizable Latino populations.

“Clara (Karla Souza) is a successful doctor in Los Angeles but not so successful in her love life. All her dissatisfactions come to the surface when her parents, who live in Baja, decide to get married after 40 years of cohabiting without a license. Writer-director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta commented after the PSIFF screening that this part of the story was inspired by her own family background. The other details may be less autobiographical. Clara is something of a self-destructive mess, often trying to undermine the relationships of other people in her life, including her own patients. She is prone to one-night stands but seems to have an almost pathological fear of commitment.

“We find out why when she attends the family shindig in Mexico and reconnects with an old flame, Daniel (Jose Maria Yazpik), who apparently broke her heart years ago when he took off on a series of globe-trotting adventures. There is clearly still a spark between the two of them, but Clara is also tentatively exploring a relationship with a resident in her medical office, Asher (Ben O’Toole), an Aussie who seems far more grounded than either Clara or Daniel.

“Anyone expecting an incisive exploration of human psychology or cross-cultural conflicts will find the script pretty superficial and overly reliant on self-help bromides. Yet we get caught up in the movie all the same. Everybody may lack depth, but it often compensates with raucous humor. There’s also the novelty value of seeing a movie in which most of the characters flip easily and gracefully between conversing in Spanish and English. The inviting Baja seaside settings are another enticement.

“But the main reason for the movie’s success is its irresistible cast. Souza manages to make us care about Clara even when she’s behaving atrociously. Her sassy spirit has us rooting for her to escape her downward spiral, but there’s no sentimentality in her portrayal. All the other attractive castmembers bring charm and energy to their performances. Patricia Bernal as Clara’s wacky but loving mother and Tiare Scanda as her more conventional sister both make strong impressions. O’Toole is especially winning as the wise but wounded Aussie. He manages to make a convincing case for stability without ever seeming too good to be true.

“The true test of a winning romantic comedy is whether it makes the audience root for the clinch between the mismatched lovers. Despite its superficiality, the film succeeds in meeting that primary goal of the genre, so it leaves the audience in a cheerful mood.”

FEBRUARY 17: Lovesong (dir. So Yong Kim) (DPs: Guy Godfree and Kat Westergaard)Variety’s Sundance Film Festival review by Justin Chang: “Conceived in the same delicate minor key as her earlier films (In Between Days, Treeless Mountain and For Ellen), So Yong Kim’s fourth feature dances nervously but gracefully around a love that not only dares not speak its name, but can barely even figure itself out. Anchored by Riley Keough’s lovely, wistful performance as a mom in her 20s who gets back in touch with an old childhood bestie (a sharp Jena Malone), Lovesong makes a virtue of restraint as it traces a complex emotional history in two parts, and innumerable (and sometimes quite literal) shades of gray. The result may not significantly broaden the audience for Kim’s subdued, perceptive work but nevertheless stands as her most accessible feature to date, and deserves a listen from discerning arthouse distributors.

“…What’s left in the end, and it’s significant, is a sudden rush of tenderness that testifies to the depth of feeling that has transpired between Sarah and Mindy, even if they may lack the words or the inclination to define it. While some may dismiss Lovesong as retrograde for not adhering to the happy-ending expectations of a 21st-century queer romance (or a mid-1950s queer romance, on the evidence of Carol), the film is not, in the end, a narrative of the closet … there’s a remarkable truthfulness to the film’s acknowledgment that people often make enormous decisions rooted not in fear so much as uncertainty, even laziness, as well as a comfort with their lives as they’ve lived them until the present juncture.

“Malone, with her knack for playing strong-willed, hard-edged young women, is perfectly cast as the brash, impulsive, needy and inconsiderate friend who has come to rely deeply on Sarah. And Keough makes entirely clear why Sarah invites her friend’s trust: Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Kristen Stewart at her most expressively withdrawn, the actress (soon to be seen on Starz’s ‘The Girlfriend Experience’) projects a soulful integrity that keeps the character from seeming too passive. She may not seem to be doing much at any given moment, but her every silent, darting glance makes clear that she’s both a natural caretaker — of her friend, of her daughter — and also someone with an eye on a potentially new horizon.

“Lensers Kat Westergaard and Guy Godfree keep their gently handheld cameras close to the primary actors but occasionally pull back to take in the cool, calming beauty of their natural surroundings. The soundscape balances occasional soft-rock tunes and a mistily subdued score by the multitalented composer Johann Johansson (Sicario, The Theory of Everything).”

FEBRUARY 17: XX (dirs. Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent (Annie Clark) and Jovanka Vuckovic) (DPs: Ian Anderson, Tarin Anderson and Patrick Cady) (animated segments created by Sofia Carrillo)Excerpts from The Hollywood Reporter’s Sundance Film Festival review by David Rooney: “Following on the heels of recent horror anthologies like Southbound and the V/H/S franchise, XX strings together four shorts written and directed by women, including Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic and Annie Clark, aka indie rock musician St. Vincent. Beyond the chromosomal title, the twisted take on motherhood shared by three installments, and the macabre wraparound and interstitial sequences by Mexican stop-motion animator Sofia Carrillo, there’s no binding thread here. The package mixes existential creepiness with black comedy, demonic carnage and a Satan’s spawn scenario, and while it’s uneven — as these combos invariably are — genre enthusiasts looking for a female spin will want to check it out.

“Arguably the most startling breakout among women in horror lately has been Australian Jennifer Kent’s wickedly effective The Babadook. Echoes of that film’s terror of maternal failure resurface here, plus there’s a vague kinship between the darker visual flourishes of Kent’s fairy-tale nightmare and Carrillo’s playful segments — dollhouse interludes that suggest a Tim Burton Toy Story. In terms of style and tone, however, the four shorts have little in common.

“…The best thing about this project is that in the genre realm of the final girl, each story features a female protagonist facing unique fears beyond scream-and-die victimhood, in one case becoming the vessel of carnage herself.”

FEBRUARY 24 (LA), MARCH 1 (NYC): Kiki (dir. Sara Jordenö) (DP: Naiti Gámez)Synopsis from film’s official website: “In New York City, LGBTQ youth-of-color gather out on the Christopher Street Pier, practicing a performance-based artform, Ballroom, which was made famous in the early 1990s by Madonna’s music video ‘Vogue’ and the documentary Paris Is Burning. Twenty-five years after these cultural touchstones, a new and very different generation of LGBTQ youth have formed an artistic activist subculture, named the Kiki Scene.

Kiki follows seven characters from the Kiki community over the course of four years, using their preparations and spectacular performances at events known as Kiki balls as a framing device while delving into their battles with homelessness, illness and prejudice as well as their gains towards political influence and the conquering of affirming gender-expressions. In Kiki we meet Twiggy Pucci Garçon, the founder and gatekeeper for the Haus of Pucci, Chi Chi, Gia, Chris, Divo, Symba and Zariya. Each of these remarkable young people represents a unique and powerful personal story, illuminating the Kiki scene in particular, as well as queer life in the U.S. for LGBTQ youth-of-color as a whole.

“The spectacular Kiki balls, a consistent component of the Kiki subculture, offer performers a safe and empowered space to enact various modes of gender expression, including a stylized femininity that, if executed in the communities in which they grew up in, could provoke ridicule and violence. Kiki scene-members range in age from young teens to 20’s, and many have been thrown out of their homes by their families or otherwise find themselves on the streets. As LGBTQ people-of-color, they constitute a minority within a minority. An alarming 50% of these young people are HIV positive. The Kiki scene was created within the LGBTQ youth-of- color community as a peer-led group offering alternative family systems (‘houses’), HIV awareness teaching and testing, and performances geared towards self-agency. The scene has evolved into an important (and ever-growing) organization with governing rules, leaders and teams, now numbering hundreds of members in New York and across the U.S and Canada. Run by LGBTQ youth for LGBTQ youth, it draws strategies from the Civil Rights, Gay Rights and Black Power movements.

“In this film collaboration between Kiki gatekeeper, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, and Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö, viewers are granted exclusive access into this high-stakes world, where fierce Ballroom competitions serve as a gateway into conversations surrounding Black-and Trans-Lives Matter movements. This new generation of Ballroom youth use the motto, ‘Not About Us Without Us,’ and Kiki in kind has been made with extensive support and trust from the community, including an exhilarating score by renowned Ballroom and Voguing Producer Collective Qween Beat. Twiggy and Sara’s insider-outsider approach to their stories breathes fresh life into the representation of a marginalized community who demand visibility and real political power.”

Women-Directed/Photographed Films Coming to Theaters: January 2017

Director Ceyda Torun with some of the stars of her new documentary, Kedi.

Here are nine new movies due to be released in theaters this January, all of which have been directed and/or photographed by women. These titles are sure to intrigue cinephiles and also provoke meaningful discussions on the film world, as well as the world in general.

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JANUARY 6: Underworld: Blood Wars (dir. Anna Foerster)Sony Pictures synopsis: “The next installment in the blockbuster franchise, Underworld: Blood Wars follows Vampire death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) as she fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.”

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JANUARY 11: Everybody Knows… Elizabeth Murray (dir. Kristi Zea)Film Forum synopsis: “Kristi Zea brings to her debut, Everybody Knows… Elizabeth Murray, all the visual smarts she developed as a costume designer and award-winning production designer for Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme, among others. A friend of Murray’s since the 1980s, the filmmaker captures the vivacious artist’s flair for color and shape. Murray’s zany, fractured canvases feature paeans to domesticity (crying children, coffee cups) as they fairly burst with the remarkable good humor and energy the artist herself exhibited even in the final days of her life. Murray’s journals are read by Meryl Streep and art world luminaries Roberta Smith, Paula Cooper, Jennifer Bartlett, and Vija Celmins testify to both her life and work. An exhibition of Murray’s work, curated by Carroll Dunham & Dan Nadel, is on view through January 29 at CANADA (333 Broome Street, NYC).”

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JANUARY 13: The Bye Bye Man (dir. Stacy Title)Coming Soon synopsis: “People commit unthinkable acts every day. Time and again, we grapple to understand what drives a person to do such terrible things. But what if all of the questions we’re asking are wrong? What if the cause of all evil is not a matter of what… but who?

“From the producer of Oculus and The Strangers comes The Bye Bye Man, a chilling horror-thriller that exposes the evil behind the most unspeakable acts committed by man. When three college friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, they discover that there is only one way to avoid his curse: don’t think it, don’t say it. But once the Bye Bye Man gets inside your head, he takes control. Is there a way to survive his possession?

“Debuting on Friday, January 13th, this film redefines the horror that iconic date represents—stretching our comprehension of the terror this day holds beyond our wildest nightmares.”

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JANUARY 13: Claire in Motion (dirs. Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson)Synopsis from the film’s official website:Claire in Motion is the second feature film from filmmaking team Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell. Exploring a short period of time inside one woman’s life-altering crisis, the story begins three weeks after math professor Claire Hunger’s (Betsy Brandt) husband has mysteriously disappeared, the police have ended their investigation and her son is beginning to grieve. The only person who hasn’t given up is Claire. Soon she discovers his troubling secrets, including an alluring yet manipulative graduate student with whom he had formed a close bond. As she digs deeper, Claire begins to lose her grip on how well she truly knew her husband and questions her own identity in the process. Claire in Motion twists the missing person thriller into an emotional take on uncertainty and loss.”

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JANUARY 13: MA (dir. Celia Rowlson-Hall)IFC Center synopsis: “In this modern-day vision of Mother Mary’s pilgrimage, a woman crosses the scorched landscape of the American Southwest. Reinvented and told entirely through movement, the film playfully deconstructs the role of this woman, who encounters a world full of bold characters that are alternately terrifying and sublime. MA is a journey into the visceral and the surreal, interweaving ritual, performance, and the body as sculpture. The absence of dialogue stirs the senses, and leads us to imagine a new ending to this familiar journey. The virgin mother gives birth to our savior, but is also challenged to save herself.”

JANUARY 13: Vince Giordano: There’s a Future in the Past (dirs. Dave Davidson and Amber Edwards)Cinema Village synopsis: “What does it take to keep Jazz Age music going strong in the 21st century? Two words: Vince Giordano — a bandleader, musician, historian, scholar, collector, and NYC institution. For nearly 40 years, Vince Giordano and The Nighthawks have brought the joyful syncopation of the 1920s and ‘30s to life with their virtuosity, vintage musical instruments, and more than 60,000 period band arrangements. This beautifully crafted documentary offers an intimate and energetic portrait of a truly devoted musician and preservationist, taking us behind the scenes of the recording of HBO’s Grammy award-winning ‘Boardwalk Empire’ soundtrack, and alongside Giordano as he shares his passion for hot jazz with a new generation of music and swing-dance fans.”

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JANUARY 20: Kedi (dir. Ceyda Torun)Synopsis from the film’s official website: “Hundreds of thousands of Turkish cats roam the metropolis of Istanbul freely. For thousands of years they’ve wandered in and out of people’s lives, becoming an essential part of the communities that make the city so rich. Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame — and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.

“Critics and internet cats agree — this cat documentary will charm its way into your heart and home as you fall in love with the cats in Istanbul.”

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JANUARY 20: Staying Vertical (dir. Alain Guiraudie) (DP: Claire Mathon)Film Society of Lincoln Center synopsis: “Léo (Damien Bonnard), a blocked filmmaker seeking inspiration in the French countryside for an overdue script, begins an affair with a shepherdess (India Hair), with whom he almost immediately has a child. Combining the formal control of his 2013 breakthrough Stranger by the Lake with the shapeshifting fabulism of his earlier work, Alain Guiraudie’s new film is a sidelong look at the human cycle of birth, procreation, and death, as well as his boldest riff yet on his signature subjects of freedom and desire. The title has the ring of both a rallying cry and a dirty joke—fitting for a film that is, above all else, a rumination on what it means to be a human being, a vertical animal.”

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JANUARY 27: Sophie and the Rising Sun (dir. Maggie Greenwald)Monterey Media synopsis: “Set in the autumn of 1941 in Salty Creek, a fishing village in South Carolina, the film tells the dramatic story of interracial lovers swept up in the tides of history. As World War II rages in Europe a wounded Asian stranger, Mr. Ohta (Takashi Yamaguchi), appears in the town under mysterious circumstances. Sophie (Julianne Nicholson), a native of Salty Creek, quickly becomes transfixed by Mr. Ohta and a friendship born of their mutual love of art blossoms into a delicate and forbidden courtship. As their secret relationship evolves the war escalates tragically. When Pearl Harbor is bombed, a surge of misguided patriotism, bigotry and violence sweeps through the town, threatening Mr. Ohta’s life. A trio of women, each with her own secrets – Sophie, along with the town matriarch (Diane Ladd) and her housekeeper (Lorraine Toussaint) – rejects law and propriety, risking their lives with their actions.”

365 Day Movie Challenge: 2016

Another year, another list of movies that I have seen. I am thrilled to report that I saw 385 films in 2016, titles that I had either never seen or had not seen in a long enough time that viewing with a fresh perspective was in order. In choosing representative images and GIFs from some of these films, I thought about light, shadow, mirrors, faces, bodies, motion, uses of cinematic space, examples of typography and ruminations on the nature of moviegoing – many of the reasons why we, the happy spectators, keep our eyes open and pay attention.

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1915-1919: The Tong Man

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1925-1929: Bulldog Drummond; Diary of a Lost Girl; Pandora’s Box; The Plastic Age; Rio Rita; Sally; The Show Off; The Unholy Three; Weary River; The Wild Party

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1930-1934: The Beast of the City; Beauty and the Boss; Chandu the Magician; Ex-Lady; The Girl from Missouri; God’s Gift to Women; The Hatchet Man; Heroes for Sale; The Invisible Man; Is My Face Red?; Little Man, What Now?; Love Is a Racket; Make Me a Star; Murders in the Zoo; Mystery of the Wax Museum; Paid; Prix de Beauté (Miss Europe); Rafter Romance; Remote Control; Safe in Hell; Seed; Skyscraper Souls; State’s Attorney; The Story of Temple Drake; Under 18; What Every Woman Knows; Wild Boys of the Road

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1935-1939: Alibi Ike; The Big Broadcast of 1938; The Cat and the Canary; College Swing; Cowboy from Brooklyn; Curly Top; Drôle de Drame; Fit for a King; Four’s a Crowd; The General Died at Dawn; The Girl from 10th Avenue; Give Me a Sailor; Go Into Your Dance; Gold Diggers of 1937; The Great Garrick; Hard to Get; I Live My Life; Jamaica Inn; Letter of Introduction; Mr. Wong, Detective; Mystery of Edwin Drood; Peter Ibbetson; Pigskin Parade; The Return of Doctor X; The Right to Live; Romance in Manhattan; Shadows of the Orient; Sing, Baby, Sing; Varsity Show; The Wrong Road

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1940-1944: Blues in the Night; The Climax; The Fallen Sparrow; First Comes Courage; Frenchman’s Creek; The Hard Way; Hold Back the Dawn; I Walked with a Zombie; Joan of Paris; Murder, My Sweet; My Favorite Blonde; My Love Came Back; Once Upon a Honeymoon; Presenting Lily Mars; Princess O’Rourke; Remorques (aka Stormy Waters); Reunion in France; So Ends Our Night; The Son of Monte Cristo; Springtime in the Rockies; They Died with Their Boots On; Tomorrow, the World!; When Ladies Meet

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1945-1949: Bodyguard; The Body Snatcher; Born to Kill; The Bribe; Cover Up; Crack-Up; The Dark Corner; Devotion; Fear in the Night; The Girl from Jones Beach; The Harvey Girls; I’ll Be Yours; Leave Her to Heaven; The Long Night; Merton of the Movies; Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House; Murder, He Says; My Name Is Julia Ross; The Razor’s Edge; Road House; Scene of the Crime; The Sin of Harold Diddlebock; Sleep, My Love; The Unfaithful; The Woman on the Beach

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1950-1954: Affair in Trinidad; Best of the Badmen; Beware, My Lovely; The Black Castle; Code Two; Drive a Crooked Road; Duffy of San Quentin; The Golden Blade; House of Wax; Jeopardy; The Las Vegas Story; Lovely to Look At; Man in the Dark; My Blue Heaven; The Strange Door; Summer Stock; There’s No Business Like Show Business; To Please a Lady; Walk Softly, Stranger

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1955-1959: The Ambassador’s Daughter; Artists and Models; Back from Eternity; Damn Yankees; Diane; Hollywood or Bust; Imitation General; It’s Always Fair Weather; The Law and Jake Wade; Les Girls; Libel; Nightfall; Patterns; Screaming Mimi; Simon and Laura; The 39 Steps; Three for the Show; Warlock

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1960-1964: The Absent-Minded Professor; The Balcony; The Bellboy; Blaze Starr Goes Nudist; Cinderfella; The City of the Dead (aka Horror Hotel); Dear Heart; The Errand Boy; The Fall of the Roman Empire; Gunfight at Comanche Creek; The Intruder; Late Autumn; Nude on the Moon; Saturday Night and Sunday Morning; Sex and the Single Girl; Twilight of Honor; Who’s Minding the Store?

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1965-1969: The April Fools; Arabesque; Goodbye, Columbus; Hercules in New York; Hour of the Wolf; Incubus; Katzelmacher; Night of the Living Dead; Pierrot le Fou

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1970-1974: The American Soldier; Beware of a Holy Whore; Blood for Dracula (aka Andy Warhol’s Dracula); The Boy Friend; Dr. Phibes Rises Again; Effi Briest; The Exorcist; Gods of the Plague; Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Nickel Ride; Whity; Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?

1975-1979: Burnt Offerings; The Devil’s Rain; Jaws 2; The Marriage of Maria Braun; Nickelodeon; The Sentinel; Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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1980-1984: The Being; The Changeling; The Evil Dead; Jaws 3-D; Johnny Dangerously; Lola; Maria’s Lovers; Possession; The Postman Always Rings Twice; Purple Rain; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Venom; Veronika Voss

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1985-1989: After Hours; The Bedroom Window; Cobra; Crawlspace; Evil Dead II; The Great Outdoors; Jaws: The Revenge; Maniac Cop; Murphy’s Romance; RoboCop; Satisfaction; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier; Streetwalkin’; Top Gun; Under the Cherry Moon

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1990-1994: Army of Darkness; Batman Returns; Body of Evidence; Demolition Man; Falling Down; Johnny Suede; Maniac Cop 2; Miller’s Crossing; The Shawshank Redemption; Showdown in Little Tokyo; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

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1995-1999: A Civil Action; Fargo; Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai; Happy Together; Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life; Jackie Brown; Kiss the Girls; The Last Days of Disco; Mad Love; Michael; Scream 2; She’s All That

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2000-2004: Ali; Along Came a Spider; An American Rhapsody; Autumn in New York; Basic; Boiler Room; Bridget Jones’s Diary; Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason; Donnie Darko; Disco Pigs; Ghost World; The Girl Next Door; Hearts in Atlantis; Keeping the Faith; Kill Bill: Vol. 1; Kill Bill: Vol. 2; Mission to Mars; National Treasure; The Notebook; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; The Others; Snatch.; Swimming Pool; 28 Days Later…; Wimbledon

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2005-2009: Alpha Dog; Breakfast on Pluto; Burn After Reading; Cairo Time; Friends with Money; Gone Baby Gone; Inglourious Basterds; Into the Wild; The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes; Red Eye; Sabah; Shotgun Stories; Snakes on a Plane; Snow Cake; Star Trek; Sunshine; Sunshine Cleaning; Take the Lead; This Is It; 2 Days in Paris; Watching the Detectives

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2010-2014: The Beaver; Bobby Fischer Against the World; The Conjuring; Diplomacy; Django Unchained; Do I Sound Gay?; Hateship Loveship; Inescapable; In Time; Leap Year; Lucy; Man of Steel; Meet the Patels; Mud; Now You See Me; October Gale; Peacock; Pina; The Pretty One; Red Lights; Seymour: An Introduction; Star Trek Into Darkness; This Is Where I Leave You; Two Night Stand; The Wolf of Wall Street; X-Men: Days of Future Past

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2015-2016: Anthropoid; Arrival; Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; The Big Short; Black Mass; The Boy Next Door; Brooklyn; Captain America: Civil War; Captain Fantastic; Carol; Chicken People; Cinderella; City of Gold; Creed; The Danish Girl; Danny Collins; Dark Places; Deadpool; The Dressmaker; Eddie the Eagle; The End of the Tour; Fifty Shades of Grey; The Fits; Florence Foster Jenkins; Focus; 45 Years; Ghostbusters; Hail, Caesar!; The Hateful Eight; Hello, My Name Is Doris; How to Be Single; I’ll See You in My Dreams; The Intern; In the Heart of the Sea; Jackie;  Joy; Keanu; Legend; Lion; The Lobster; The Longest Ride; Loving; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing; Meadowland; Midnight Special; Mississippi Grind; Money Monster; No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers; One More Time with Feeling; Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in It (aka Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai); Sisters; Snowden; Spotlight; Standing Tall; Star Trek Beyond; Suffragette; Triple 9; True Story; Weiner; X-Men: Apocalypse

Women-Directed/Photographed Films Coming to Theaters: December 2016

Director/producer/actress Katie Holmes (center) on the set of All We Had, 2015.

Here are twelve new movies due to be released in theaters this December, all of which have been directed and/or photographed by women. These titles are sure to intrigue cinephiles and also provoke meaningful discussions on the film world, as well as the world in general.

DECEMBER 2: Best and Most Beautiful Things (dir. Garrett Zevgetis) (DPs: Sarah Ginsburg and Jordan Salvatoriello)PBS Independent Lens synopsis: “In rural Maine, a quirky, charming, and determined young woman named Michelle Smith lives with her mother Julie. Legally blind and on the autism spectrum, Michelle has big dreams and proudly wears the badge of outcast. Searching for connection, Michelle explores love and empowerment outside the limits of ‘normal,’ including a provocative sexual awakening. Best and Most Beautiful Things tells Michelle’s joyful story of self-discovery as a celebration of outcasts everywhere.

“After receiving an extraordinary education at the Perkins School for the Blind, a world-famous institution outside Boston which was attended by the young Helen Keller, Michelle becomes isolated after graduation, spending hours and days alone in her room, struggling to envision her future. She attends an alumni weekend where a school administrator unexpectedly offers her the possibility of an animation internship in Los Angeles. While Michelle eagerly anticipates this dream opportunity, her family and teachers worry about real-world logistics and Michelle’s readiness to live independently on the other side of the country.

“Michelle passes time on the computer, feeding her interests and bold curiosity about the world beyond her walls. Online, she meets and falls in love with a young college student named Michael, and together they become involved in a local fetish role-playing community. Through her relationship with Michael and their adventures with kink and BDSM, Michelle experiences a burgeoning empowerment and finds the acceptance that has eluded her since her time at Perkins. Best and Most Beautiful Things gently reveals how all the most beautiful things, including love and sexuality, are not bound by disability.”

DECEMBER 2: First Lady of the Revolution (dir. Andrea Kalin)From the film’s official website: “While visiting an aunt and uncle in the exotic countryside of Costa Rica, a young Southern Belle from Alabama accepted a ride on the back of a motorcycle belonging to a charismatic local farmer. That ride would propel her into history.

First Lady of the Revolution is the remarkable story of Henrietta Boggs, who fell in love with a foreign land and the man destined to transform its identity. Her marriage to José ‘Don Pepe’ Figueres in 1941 led to a decade-long journey through activism, exile and political upheaval, and ultimately, lasting political reform.

First Lady of the Revolution is not only a depiction of the momentous struggle to shape Costa Rica’s democratic identity; it’s also a portrayal of how a courageous woman escaped the confines of a traditional, sheltered existence to expand her horizons into a new world, and live a life she never imagined.

DECEMBER 2: Things to Come (dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)Excerpt from Variety review by Guy Lodge: “Midway through Things to Come, Isabelle Huppert’s protagonist has a disconcerting encounter in a cinema, distracting her from Juliette Binoche’s own on-screen emotional uncertainty in Abbas Kiarostami’s 2010 jewel, Certified Copy. It’s a cheeky move to so fleetingly cameo that level of perfection in one’s own work, but Mia Hansen-Love’s fifth — and possibly best — feature pulls it off with warmth and grace to spare. At once disarmingly simple in form and riddled with rivulets of complex feeling, this story of a middle-aged Parisienne philosophy professor rethinking an already much-examined life in the wake of unforeseen divorce emulates the best academics in making outwardly familiar ideas feel newly alive and immediate — and has an ideal human conduit in a wry, heartsore Huppert, further staking her claim as our greatest living actress with nary a hint of showing off. Following widespread distribution for the dazzling but younger-skewing Eden, the arthouse future for Hansen-Love’s latest is surely a bright one.

“Among the more minor losses endured by heavily burdened philosopher Nathalie (Huppert) in the course of Hansen-Love’s gently meandering narrative is one of pedagogical authority. As her favorite student, Fabien (Roman Kolinka), grows into a writer and thinker of independent, often conflicting, agency, she’s both gratified and saddened that the path on which she placed him has diverged from hers; the student has become not the master, but merely his own man.

“Hansen-Love knows a thing or two about what we give and take from our teachers. Like her four previous films, Things to Come bears the delicate tonal imprint of her former mentor and now husband, Olivier Assayas — the wily presence of the great Edith Scob isn’t the only nod here to, in particular, Assayas’ Summer Hours. Yet the pic’s glinting aesthetic textures and searching philosophical preoccupations are quite plainly her own. As filmmakers, they share tastes and interests in the way lovers must do, as if they were mutually beloved songs. Hansen-Love’s sharply feminine and subtly feminist worldview, however, is marked by a guarded generational idealism and resistance to nostalgia that sets it richly apart from others in the current French canon; in Things to Come, her rotating sensibilities as intellectual, humanist and sensualist converge most satisfyingly.”

DECEMBER 2: Two Trains Runnin’ (dir. Samuel D. Pollard) (DP: Natalie Kingston)From the film’s official website:Two Trains Runnin’ is a feature-length documentary directed by acclaimed filmmaker Sam Pollard, narrated by Common, and featuring the music of Gary Clark Jr. The film pays tribute to a pioneering generation of musicians and cuts to the heart of our present moment, offering a crucial vantage from which to view the evolving dynamics of race in America.

“In June of 1964 hundreds of college students, eager to join the civil rights movement, traveled to Mississippi, starting what would be known as Freedom Summer. That same month, two groups of young men–made up of musicians, college students and record collectors–also traveled to Mississippi. Though neither group was aware of the other, each had come on the same errand: to find an old blues singer and coax him out of retirement. Thirty years before, Son House and Skip James had recorded some of the most memorable music of their era, but now they seemed lost to time.

“Finding them would not be easy. There were few clues to their whereabouts. It was not even known for certain if they were still alive.  And Mississippi, that summer, was a tense and violent place. With hundreds on their way to teach in freedom schools and work on voter registration, the Ku Klux Klan and police force of many towns vowed that Freedom Summer would not succeed. Churches were bombed, shotguns blasted into cars and homes. It was easy to mistake the young men looking for Son House and Skip James as activists. Finally, on June 21, 1964, these two campaigns collided in memorable and tragic fashion.

“In telling this remarkable story, Two Trains Runnin’ revisits an important moment when America’s cultural and political institutions were dramatically transformed. The movie is all the more pointed and relevant today, in an era of renewed attention on police brutality and voting rights.”

DECEMBER 9: All We Had (dir. Katie Holmes)Tribeca Film Festival synopsis by Genna Terranova: “Ruthie Carmichael (Stefania Owen) makes the best of bad circumstances, pulled along in the wake of the hard luck of her mother Rita (Katie Holmes). From escaping a bad boyfriend to their car breaking down on the road to going broke, they continually find themselves in search of stability. When their attempt at settling in a new town hits a stumbling block, and as the shine wears off of the kind strangers who supported them when they had first arrived, even Ruthie struggles to keep it together. Based on Annie Weatherwax’s 2014 novel, Katie Holmes’s feature directorial debut is a sensitive rendering of the Great Recession as told by people who were unprepared for the shortfall and could not have seen it coming. Owen and Holmes are perfectly matched as they explore a mother-daughter bond crashing against universal teenage themes: growing up under hardship, realizing the imperfections of parents and facing the many little dramas that overwhelm positivity and progress. Holmes finds in All We Had a stimulating and ultimately enriching coming-of-age drama about a resilient mother and daughter who find strength in each other.”

DECEMBER 9: Solitary (dir. Kristi Jacobson)Human Rights Watch Film Festival synopsis:Solitary tells the stories of several inmates sent to Red Onion State Prison, one of over 40 supermax prisons across the US, which holds inmates in eight-by-ten foot solitary confinement cells, 23 hours a day. Profoundly intimate, this immersive film weaves through prison corridors and cells, capturing the chilling sounds and haunting atmosphere of the prison. With unprecedented access, award-winning filmmaker Kristi Jacobson investigates an invisible part of the American justice system and tells the stories of people caught in the complex penal system – both inmates and correction officers – raising provocative questions about punishment in America today.”

DECEMBER 16: Collateral Beauty (dir. David Frankel) (DP: Maryse Alberti)Excerpt from Warner Bros. synopsis: “When a successful New York advertising executive suffers a great tragedy he retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

Collateral Beauty features an all-star cast, including Will Smith (Suicide Squad, Concussion), Edward Norton (Birdman or [The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance]), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Michael Peña (The Martian), Naomie Harris (Spectre), Jacob Latimore (The Maze Runner), with Oscar winners Kate Winslet (The Reader, Steve Jobs) and Helen Mirren (The Queen, Trumbo).”

DECEMBER 25: Fences (dir. Denzel Washington) (DP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen)Excerpt from The Wrap review by Robert Abele: “It’s taken nearly 30 years for August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences to make it to movie screens since its roiling portrait of an embittered African-American mid-20th-century man exploded on Broadway in 1987. But if anybody was going to do it justice as a film, it’s Denzel Washington.

“The stage-trained megastar played Wilson’s Troy Maxson — former ballplayer, ex-con and struggling Pittsburgh garbageman — in a celebrated 2010 revival, and he’s now taken the reins behind and in front of the camera for a film adaptation that amounts to a great actor’s dedicated stewardship of the late dramatist’s considerable gifts. Can you tell it’s a play? Absolutely. Does that mean a damn thing? Not when the writing is this richly evocative, and the cast so often soars with it.

“It’s not just Washington in home-run form, but Viola Davis, too, as Troy’s long-suffering wife Rose, a role she also played in the Washington-headlined production. Together they bring to vivid life the complexities and contradictions in an 18-year marriage built on a sense of duty neither realized was as fragile as it was. It’s a safe bet these in-the-moment powerhouses will be in plenty of accolade-centric conversations for the rest of the season.”

DECEMBER 25: Hidden Figures (dir. Theodore Melfi) (DP: Mandy Walker)Fox Movies synopsis:Hidden Figures is the incredible untold story of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”

DECEMBER 25: Toni Erdmann (dir. Maren Ade)New York Film Festival synopsis: “An audacious twist on the screwball comedy—here, the twosome is an aging-hippie prankster father and his corporate-ladder-climbing daughter—Toni Erdmann delivers art and entertainment in equal measure and charmed just about everyone who saw it at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Maren Ade’s dazzling script has just enough of a classical comedic structure to support 162 minutes of surprises big and small. Meanwhile, her direction is designed to liberate the actors as much as possible while the camera rolls, resulting in sublime performances by Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek, who leave the audience suspended between laughter and tears. A Sony Pictures Classics release.”

DECEMBER 30: Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer? (dir. Eve Marson)From the film’s official website: “Dr. William Hurwitz was a preeminent doctor sentenced to 25 years in prison for overprescribing painkillers. His story provides a window into the ethical dilemma of opioid prescriptions. Painkillers give doctors tremendous power to relieve pain, a primary goal of any physician, but this power begets trouble when the same drugs can lead to addiction, abuse and death.

“In 2016, painkiller abuse continues to skyrocket, the federal government has issued its first guidelines to control opioid prescriptions, and the investigation into Prince’s death only furthers finger-pointing at Big Pharma, doctors and addicts.

“There could not be a more critical time to spark discussion on the topic and call for careful thought and action.”

DECEMBER 30: Miss Violence (dir. Alexandros Avranas) (DP: Olympia Mytilinaiou)Excerpt of Starburst review by Martyn Conterio: “Ever since Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth wowed audiences back in 2009, Greek cinema has become the new Michael Haneke. Although Lanthimos and others have weaved into the fabric of their sometimes controversial work a certain absurdist humour, the award-winning second feature by Alexandros Avranas, Miss Violence, paints it black and black only.

“Angeliki (Chloe Bolota), on her 11th birthday, jumps out of an open window. She is smiling as she does so. The family appear sad and upset for five minutes and then carry on as if nothing untoward has happened. No questions are asked and no soul-searching undertaken. It’s like the poor girl has been erased from memory. But why?

“For a long time, and the film’s pace is pitched at glacial, Avranas feeds the viewer crumbs of information about the dynamics at work within the family unit. From the very first scene, even before the shocking act of Angeliki’s suicide, there’s something not quite right. Could it be the Leonard Cohen song, “Dance Me To The End of Love,” playing on the stereo system or the bland colour scheme of the home interior and costume design?

Miss Violence is an experimental mixture of thriller narrative (removed of all genre thrills), a horror movie and a detective story, complete with a series of revelations so astoundingly grim that the overall reaction, as the film draws to a close, is one of absolute devastation.”

Indelible Film Images: Late Autumn

Late Autumn (1960) – dir. Yasujirô Ozu

Starring: Setsuko Hara, Yôko Tsukasa, Mariko Okada, Keiji Sada, Shin Saburi, Chishû Ryû, Nobuo Nakamura, Kuniko Miyake, Sadako Sawamura, Ryûji Kita

Cinematography: Yûharu Atsuta

(Note: Ozu’s color films from the late 50s and early 60s remind me of Edward Hopper’s paintings from the same time, particularly 1962’s New York Office.)

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Women-Directed/Photographed Films Coming to Theaters: November 2016

Screenwriter/producer/director/editor Logan Kibens (right) with actor Martin Starr (middle) and others on the set of Operator, 2015/2016.

Here are nineteen new movies due to be released (either in theaters or via other platforms) in November which have been directed and/or photographed by women. These titles are sure to intrigue cinephiles and also provoke meaningful discussions on the film world, as well as the world in general.

NOVEMBER 2: Don’t Call Me Son (dir. Anna Muylaert) (DP: Barbara Alvarez)Film Forum synopsis: “Tall, dark, androgynously handsome, Pierre wears eyeliner and a black lace g-string, while having sex with both boys and girls. The confusion only goes deeper when the teenager’s single, working-class mom is arrested for having stolen him (and his ‘sister’) at birth. Thanks to the wonders of DNA, he’s returned to his biological parents: bourgeois, straight-laced and thrilled to have him back — at least until he shows up in a zebra-print mini dress. The turmoil of adolescence is plumbed with wit and compassion by writer/director Anna Muylaert, whose previous film, The Second Mother, also dealt with familial loyalty and class tensions. Actress Dani Nefussi gives completely believable knock-out performances as both mothers, and newcomer Naomi Nero defies expectations as a broodingly intense, potentially volcanic six-footer in stiletto heels.”

NOVEMBER 4 (NYC), NOVEMBER 11 (Pasadena, CA): Beauty Bites Beast (dir. Ellen Snortland) (DP: Maria Elena Chavez)From a KOAM TV article: “Ellen Snortland, filmmaker and author of a groundbreaking book on women’s self-defense of the same title, has just finished a new documentary: Beauty Bites Beast. Her film reveals the missing conversations about ending violence against women through teaching them how to defend themselves and that they are powerful and capable enough to do so.

“Women and girls have a right to set boundaries–emotionally, verbally, and, if push comes to shove, physically. Ellen calls it the ultimate manifestation of the premise, ‘Think Globally, Act Locally’: ‘Females of all species know how to protect themselves and it’s a birthright for human females, too. There’s nothing more local than one’s own body.’

“Gloria Steinem had this to say about the film: ‘Female elephants, lions — all are just as fierce in self-defense as males. Only our species is taught to be “feminine” and defenseless. Beauty Bites Beast shows how women around the world are taking back our strengths and lives.'”

NOVEMBER 4: The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (dir. Brett Story) (DP: Maya Bankovic)From the film’s official website: “More people are imprisoned in the United States at this moment than in any other time or place in history, yet the prison itself has never felt further away or more out of sight. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes is a film about the prison in which we never see a penitentiary. Instead, the film unfolds as a cinematic journey through a series of landscapes across the USA where prisons do work and affect lives, from a California mountainside where female prisoners fight raging wildfires, to a Bronx warehouse full of goods destined for the state correctional system, to an Appalachian coal town betting its future on the promise of prison jobs.”

NOVEMBER 4: What Happened Last Night (dir. Candice T. Cain)From the film’s Indiegogo fundraising page: “A guy and a girl wake up in bed next to one another and don’t know who each other is, where they are, how they got there, where their clothes are or… What Happened Last Night.  This feature-length romantic comedy is set on a college campus and tells a story of heartbreak, friends, rebounds, Greek life, college parties and the fog some of us have experienced the morning after.

What Happened Last Night was originally a successful play produced by C2 Productions in Washington, DC back in 1996. It has since been updated and transformed into a hysterical screenplay.

“This film is going to give some up and coming talent the opportunity to work with some talent that has already been established in the entertainment industry, and that is all contingent on YOU! It has been a long time since we’ve had a great romantic comedy with a college setting… What Happened Last Night is exactly that.”

NOVEMBER 8 (on iTunes and on demand): Operator (dir. Logan Kibens)From the film’s Facebook page: “Joe (Martin Starr) loves data. He tracks his diet and exercise, his mood and sex life – turning the information into beautiful charts that help him control his often overwhelming anxiety. At work Joe designs personalities for digital customer service voices, but his latest robo-agent for a client is a disaster. In a moment of inspiration, he enlists his wife Emily (Mae Whitman) to serve as the template for the redesigned voice. The project goes well until Joe’s obsession with replicating his wife’s empathy threatens their marriage.

NOVEMBER 11: The Love Witch (dir. Anna Biller)From the film’s official website: “Elaine, a beautiful young witch, is determined to find a man to love her. In her gothic Victorian apartment she makes spells and potions, and then picks up men and seduces them. However her spells work too well, and she ends up with a string of hapless victims. When she finally meets the man of her dreams, her desperation to be loved will drive her to the brink of insanity and murder. With a visual style that pays tribute to Technicolor thrillers of the ‘60s, The Love Witch explores female fantasy and the repercussions of pathological narcissism.”

NOVEMBER 11: The Monster (dir. Bryan Bertino) (DP: Julie Kirkwood)A24 synopsis: “Acclaimed horror filmmaker Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) directs this suspenseful and scary new film, in which a divorced mother (Zoe Kazan) and her headstrong daughter must make an emergency late night road trip to see the girl’s father.  As they drive through deserted country roads on a stormy night, they suddenly have a startling collision that leaves them shaken but not seriously hurt.  Their car, however, is dead, and as they try in vain to get help, they come to realize they are not alone on these desolate backroads—a terrifying evil is lurking in the surrounding woods, intent on never letting them leave…

“A chilling and tension-filled experience, The Monster pits two ferociously strong women against one of the scariest and most shocking monsters you’ll ever see. It will be a battle no one will forget.”

NOVEMBER 11 (NYC), NOVEMBER 18 (LA): National Bird (dir. Sonia Kennebeck)From the film’s official website:National Bird follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers who are determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial current affairs issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, they decide to speak out publicly, despite the possible consequences.

“Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of the protagonists to Afghanistan where she learns about a horrendous incident. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption. National Bird gives rare insight into the U.S. drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors, connecting their stories as never seen before in a documentary. Its images haunt the audience and bring a faraway issue close to home.”

NOVEMBER 13: Black Women in Medicine (dir. Crystal Emery)Cinema Village synopsis:Black Women in Medicine is the first documentary to explore the history, contemporary issues, and future possibilities of African American women physicians by featuring the diverse voices of young medical students, practicing physicians, and elder trailblazers all of whom share intimate stories of what it means to be a Black Woman Doctor in America. This groundbreaking  film includes rarely seen documentation of Black women practicing medicine during critical operations, emergency room urgent care, and community wellness sessions as well as in depth original interviews and compelling archival images. In telling the stories of women who have persevered in medical fields in part by overcoming barriers linked to race and gender, Black Women in Medicine provides audiences with a vivid and stunning experience of the triumph of the human spirit.”

NOVEMBER 18: Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (dir. Lonny Price) (DPs: Elaine Epstein and Matthew Howe)Film Society of Lincoln Center synopsis: “In 1981, Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince, and George Furth embarked on Merrily We Roll Along, a musical based on the 1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart comedy told in reverse: the characters, played by a cast of teenage unknowns, begin as disillusioned adults and end as starry-eyed adolescents. Though the original, much-ballyhooed production was panned by the critics and closed after just 16 performances, Merrily We Roll Along would go on to attain musical theater legend status. This alternately heartbreaking and euphoric film by original cast member Lonny Price features never-before seen footage of Prince and Sondheim at work on the show and revisits many of Price’s fellow actors, all of them united by this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

NOVEMBER 18: Blood on the Mountain (dirs. Mari-Lynn C. Evans and Jordan Freeman)From the film’s official website:Blood on the Mountain is a searing investigation into the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. This new feature documentary details the struggles of a hard-working, misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land. Blood on the Mountain delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by the powers elected to represent them.”

NOVEMBER 18: Divines (dir. Houda (or Uda) Benyamina)Toronto International Film Festival synopsis/review:Girlhood meets Scarface. Houda Benyamina’s debut is a suspenseful and kinetic film about a pair of young women determined to make their own way in a world that seems set against them.

“In the banlieues of Paris, teenager Dounia (Oulaya Amamra) dreams of having it all: money, power, and a man. Unsatisfied with their socially prescribed career prospects, she and her friend Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) start dealing drugs as a way to make some quick cash. They are soon embroiled in a world of crime, which drives a wedge between Dounia and the object of her amorous interest: a sultry security guard who moonlights as a dancer (Kévin Mischel). The beautiful and cunning Dounia is ordered by her dealer to seduce and scam a local kingpin, but the plan spirals out of control, and Dounia is left fighting to save not just her dreams but her best friend.

Divines won the Camera d’Or at Cannes (the first time a film by an Arab director has garnered this honour), and it’s easy to see why: shot with a ferocious intensity, it careens from scene to scene, capturing the vitality and wildness of its young stars. Amamra matches its energy with a commanding, chameleonic performance. Her Dounia — by turns a posturing teen, a shy girl, and a tough gangster — is a force to be reckoned with.

“Benyamina doesn’t shy away from critiquing contemporary French racial and religious dynamics. Set in a predominantly black and Muslim housing block, Divines highlights the discrimination entrenched in French society and policing. This rough and raw coming-of-age story has as much fight in it as do the two unforgettable women at its centre.”

NOVEMBER 18: The Edge of Seventeen (dir. Kelly Fremon Craig)From a Variety review: “In the best teen films, from Sixteen Candles to Clueless to Superbad to the greatest high school movie of the last ten years, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the main characters have a way of occupying the moral high ground. Even when they’re outcasts or ‘losers,’ their cleverness and wit — the sheer humanity of their alienation — puts us right on their side. But that’s not quite the case with Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), the radiantly troubled heroine of The Edge of Seventeen.

“She’s a creature of intense magnetism who, in theory at least, has all the qualities that an audience could want. She’s poised and beautiful, with a wardrobe — colorful wedgy sneakers, parochial-school skirt worn as ironic fashion statement — catchy enough to be just this side of fatally hip. She speaks in drop-dead verbal volleys, which she stretches out into entertainingly long and winding sentences, and she surveys the world with an awareness that links her to several generations of precocious movie rebels. When she interrupts one of her teachers, Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), during his lunch hour, all so she can deliver a big speech about how she wants to commit suicide, it’s clear that she’s drama-queening whatever’s going on with her. We sit back and chuckle at her over-the-top audacity. It all seems a bit broad, and maybe a bit too familiar.

“But Nadine, it turns out, isn’t just an outrageous charmer. She’s a pill, a narcissist who speaks in forked tongue — a girl who uses her God-given brains and humor by turning them against everyone around her. The Edge of Seventeen was written and directed by Kelly Fremon Craig (it’s her first feature), with James L. Brooks serving as its lead producer, and it’s a teen movie that starts off funny ha-ha but turns into something more like a light-fingered psychological thriller. The drama is all in Nadine’s personality, in how far she’ll go to act out her distress.

“…It takes a certain high-wire daring to make a teen comedy in which the heroine acts like a holy terror, and The Edge of Seventeen all but invites you to gaze at Nadine and think of her as, you know, the B-word. Except for one important qualifier: Deep down, she’s not really out to wound people — she’s trying, almost compulsively, to push them away. Ever since her big-screen debut in 2010, playing Mattie Ross in True Grit, Hailee Steinfeld has gathered confidence as a performer, and The Edge of Seventeen is her breakthrough. She’s a fantastic actress, with a sharpness and verve that belies the catlike softness of her features. She’s like the young Elizabeth Taylor, with playful flexing eyebrows that italicize her every thought. Even when she’s just tossing off lines, Steinfeld makes Nadine a hellion you can’t tear yourself away from. She isn’t just the star of The Edge of Seventeen — she’s its center of gravity.”

NOVEMBER 18 (in theaters), NOVEMBER 21 (HBO premiere): Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing (dirs. Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg)Cinema Village synopsis:Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing recounts the dramatic story of the April 2013 terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon through the experiences of individuals whose lives were affected. Ranging from the events of the day to the death-penalty sentencing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the film features surveillance footage, news clips, home movies and exclusive interviews with survivors and their families, as well as first responders, investigators, government officials and reporters from the Boston Globe, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the bombing. In the wake of terrorism, a newlywed couple, a mother and daughter, and two brothers — all gravely injured by the blast — face the challenges of physical and emotional recovery as they and their families strive to reclaim their lives and communities.”

NOVEMBER 25, DECEMBER 2 (depending on the city, I think): Always Shine (dir. Sophia Takal)Roxie Theatre synopsis: “Two women, both actresses with differing degrees of success, travel north from Los Angeles to Big Sur for a weekend vacation in Always Shine, Sophia Takal’s twisty, psychological thriller. Both see the trip as an opportunity to reconnect after years of competition and jealousy has driven a wedge between them, but upon arrival to their isolated, forest retreat, the pair discovers that their once intimate friendship has deteriorated into forced conversations, betrayals both real and imagined, petty jealousies, and deep seated resentment. As the women allow their feelings to fester, each begins to lose their bearings not only on the true nature of their relationship, but on their own identities. Mackenzie Davis (“Halt and Catch Fire”) and Caitlin FitzGerald (“Masters of Sex”) give brave and raw performances as Beth and Anna, two women whose ideas of success are dictated as much by external cultural criterion as their own sense of self-worth. Beautifully photographed and assuredly directed by Takal, Always Shine wraps itself in an evocative shroud of dread and paranoia that lingers long after the final frame.”

NOVEMBER 25: Apparition Hill (dir. Sean Bloomfield) (DP: Cimela Kidonakis)AMC Theatres synopsis: “From the acclaimed director of The Triumph comes a powerful new film that chronicles the incredible journey of 7 strangers who embark across the globe to investigate one of the greatest mysteries of the modern era. Apparition Hill is an emotionally charged ‘cinematic pilgrimage’ to the little-known village of Medjugorje nestled along the Croatian-Bosnia-Herzegovina borders. Discover the shared miracle as two atheists, a skeptic, two terminally ill patients, a widower, and a recovering addict learn about life … and what comes after it.”

NOVEMBER 25: Behind “The Cove” (dir./DP: Keiko Yagi)From the film’s official website: “The Japan-bashing, anti-whaling documentary The Cove won an Academy Award in 2010. But was it entirely truthful?

“This is Japan’s first on-film response to The Cove. And more.

“Negative media coverage on the never-ending whaling issue prompted first-time documentary filmmaker Keiko Yagi to find out more about the topic. With no budget, limited experience in filmmaking, no fluency in English, but armed with a video camera and a strong desire to find out about the truth of the matter on whaling, Yagi started her research.

“What started out as a personal investigation triggered by childhood memories of whale dishes inevitably led her to the town of Taiji, the center of the whaling debate and the stage of The Cove. What she found through her experiences there and elsewhere was a much bigger story than she had initially imagined.

Behind ‘The Cove’ is director Keiko Yagi’s attempt to present a comprehensive picture of the dolphin and whale hunting issues in Japan, which includes interviews of people on both sides of the whaling dispute, its sinister political side, what The Cove could not offer, and a unique take on the topic.”

NOVEMBER 25: The C Word (dir. Meghan O’Hara)DOC NYC synopsis:From filmmaker and cancer survivor Meghan O’Hara (producer of Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine and Sicko), comes a daring and intimate film that seeks to change the way we think about cancer.  O’Hara investigates the connection between the current cancer epidemic and our western lifestyle, including medical professionals’ tendency to treat only the symptoms and not the underlying causes of what ails us. Backed by personal experiences and the scientific validation of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, O’Hara asks us to reconsider the way we currently treat cancer, advocates for society-wide lifestyle changes, and tackles the institutions that stand in the way of those important changes. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Morgan Freeman, The C Word challenges us to step up and take control of our health.”

NOVEMBER 25: Evolution (dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic)IFC Films synopsis: “This eerily seductive mind-bender is a dark, dreamlike descent into the depths of the unknown. Ten-year-old Nicolas (Max Brebant) lives in a remote seaside village populated only by boys his age and adult women. But when he makes a disturbing discovery beneath the ocean waves—a dead boy with a red starfish on his stomach—Nicolas begins to question everything about his existence. What are the half-remembered images he recalls, as if from another life? If the woman he lives with is not his mother, then who is she? And what awaits the boys when they are all suddenly confined to a hospital? The long-awaited new film from the acclaimed director of Innocence is awash in the haunting, otherworldly images of a nightmare.”

Women-Directed/Photographed Films Coming to Theaters: October 2016

Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen on the set of The Girl on the Train, 2015/2016.

Here are eighteen new movies due to be released in October (either in theaters or on Netflix) which have been directed and/or photographed by women. These titles are sure to intrigue cinephiles and also provoke meaningful discussions on the film world, as well as the world in general.

OCTOBER 7: All in Time (dirs. Marina Donahue and Chris Fetchko)From the Keystone Rock Review: “Mainly set in and filmed in the state of Pennsylvania, the film All in Time is set to hit theatres this Fall. The plot follows a New York based banker who leaves his well-paying job to return to his hometown (Wilkes-Barre) to manage a rock band that was up and coming when he was younger but has fallen on some hard times. He then launches a unique concert idea which eventually leads to some success and a whole bunch of unexpected twists.

All in Time was written and directed by Chris Fetchko and Marina Donahue. The basic setting of the story is based on Fetchko’s own decision to leave his New York based career in 2002 and launch a music management firm to manage The Badlees along with several other artists. Music in the film is primarily provided by The Badlees (as the fictional band “The Damnsels”) and Laura Shay, another artist in Fetchko’s management group. Shay acts in the film along with two members of The Badlees (Pete Palladino and Ron Simasek) and a cast of professional actors including Sean Modica, Lynn Cohen, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Vanessa Ray and Josh Burrow.”

OCTOBER 7: The Girl on the Train (dir. Tate Taylor) (DP: Charlotte Bruus Christensen)From the film’s official website: “Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Laura Prepon star in DreamWorks Pictures’ The Girl on the Train, from director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) and producer Marc Platt (Bridge of Spies, Into the Woods).

“In the thriller, Rachel (Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.

“Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson.  The film’s executive producers are Jared LeBoff and Celia Costas, and it will be released by Universal Pictures.”

OCTOBER 7: The Lennon Report (dir. Jeremy Profe) (DP: Lisa Rinzler)From the film’s official website: “On December 8th, 1980, John Lennon was shot outside of the Dakota apartment building in New York City. The Lennon Report follows the untold, true story of those who were part of his attempted rescue and witnesses to the human cost of tragedy.

“When Emergency Department Nurses Barbara Kammerer (Stef Dawson) and Deatra Sato (Ashley Atkinson) paged Dr. David Halleran (Evan Jonigkeit) about a John Doe shooting victim, they had no idea he would turn out to be the world’s biggest rock star. Alan Weiss (Walter Vincent), an ambitious young news producer awaiting treatment following a motorcycle accident, finds himself in a position to break the biggest story of his life.

“Dr. Halleran, with the help of surgeon Dr. Marks (Tony Award winner Stephen Spinella), attempts to resuscitate John Lennon. This dramatic surgery is done under the watchful eye of the Emergency Department Director, Dr. Lynn (Richard Kind). Alan Weiss ignores the orders of his doctor (Adrienne C. Moore) and struggles with Security Officer Medina (David Zayas) to break the story and tell the world what’s happened.

The Lennon Report assembles a stellar cast to tell the story of the real men and women who tried in vain to save the life of the world’s most famous musician the night he was gunned down outside the Dakota in New York City on December 8, 1980. For some, this movie is the first telling of their story, 36 years later.  For others, it sets the record straight. For all, it reveals the emotional toll the loss of this icon had on these individuals.”

OCTOBER 7: Newtown (dir. Kim A. Snyder)From the film’s official website: “Filmed over the course of nearly three years, the filmmakers use unique access and never before heard testimonies to tell a story of the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history on December 14, 2012. Newtown documents a traumatized community fractured by grief and driven toward a sense of purpose. Joining the ranks of a growing club to which no one wants to belong, a cast of characters interconnect to weave an intimate story of community resilience.”

OCTOBER 7 (NYC), OCTOBER 14 (LA): The Red Pill (dir. Cassie Jaye)From the film’s official website: “When feminist filmmaker Cassie Jaye sets out to document the mysterious and polarizing world of the Men’s Rights Movement, she begins to question her own beliefs. Jaye had only heard about the Men’s Rights Movement as being a misogynist hate-group aiming to turn back the clock on women’s rights, but when she spends a year filming the leaders and followers within the movement, she learns the various ways men are disadvantaged and discriminated against. The Red Pill challenges the audience to pull back the veil, question societal norms, and expose themselves to an alternate perspective on gender equality, power and privilege.”

OCTOBER 7: 13th (dir. Ava DuVernay) (DPs: Hans Charles and Kira Kelly)From a New York Times review by Manohla Dargis: “Powerful, infuriating and at times overwhelming, Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th will get your blood boiling and tear ducts leaking. It shakes you up, but it also challenges your ideas about the intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States, subject matter that could not sound less cinematic. Yet Ms. DuVernay — best known for Selma, and a filmmaker whose art has become increasingly inseparable from her activism — has made a movie that’s as timely as the latest Black Lives Matter protest and the approaching presidential election.

“The movie hinges on the 13th Amendment, as the title indicates, in ways that may be surprising, though less so for those familiar with Michelle Alexander’s 2010 best seller, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Ratified in 1865, the amendment states in full: ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.’ As Ms. Alexander underscores, slavery was abolished for everyone except criminals.

“In her book, Ms. Alexander (the most charismatic of the movie’s interviewees) argues that mass incarceration exists on a continuum with slavery and Jim Crow. As one of ‘the three major racialized systems of control adopted in the United States to date,’ it ensures ‘the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race.’ Under the old Jim Crow, state laws instituted different rules for blacks and whites, segregating them under the doctrine of separate but equal. Now, with the United States having 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, a disproportionate number of whom are black, mass incarceration has become ‘metaphorically, the new Jim Crow.'”

“Written by Ms. DuVernay and Spencer Averick, 13th picks up Ms. Alexander’s baton and sprints through the history of American race and incarceration with seamless economy. (Mr. Averick also edited the movie.) In its first 30 minutes, the documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs. By the time her movie ends, Ms. DuVernay has delivered a stirring treatise on the prison industrial complex through a nexus of racism, capitalism, policies and politics. It sounds exhausting, but it’s electrifying.

“…Ms. DuVernay isn’t the only American director to take on race and the prison industrial complex (Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In charts adjacent terrain), but hers is a powerful cinematic call to conscience, partly because of how she lays bare the soul of our country. Because, as she sifts through American history, you grasp the larger implications of her argument: The United States did not just criminalize a select group of black people. It criminalized black people as a whole, a process that, in addition to destroying untold lives, effectively transferred the guilt for slavery from the people who perpetuated it to the very people who suffered through it.”

OCTOBER 7: 37 (dir. Puk Grasten)LevelK ApS Film Sales synopsis:37 is inspired by a true story set in 1964, New York, where several neighbors witness the brutal murder and rape of Kitty Genovese and do not intervene. The New York Times published the article ’37 Who Saw Murder Didn’t Call the Police.’ The Neighbors are depicted as monsters that used her 35 minute fight for survival as their own entertainment, but given the reality of that time period, it is much more multi-faceted and complex. 37 peeks into the lives of three disparate families, the lonely neighbor and the doorman. Kitty Genovese’s murder connects these disparate lives and simultaneously reveals a vast and startling disconnect between them. In 37 we connect with the neighbors and understand their decisions not to act by understanding their day-to-day struggles. Inside their apartments the neighbors are dealing with their personal lives and conflicts the same way as they deal with witnessing a murder; if we don’t see, hear or talk about it, then it didn’t happen. The adults, controlled by group mentality and fear of the unknown, teach the children throughout the film to look the other way. In consequence, it is the adults, and not the murder, which take the innocence away from the children. The children end up isolated and lonely, the harbingers of the modern society, while the adults hold on to the familiarity of the routine of the everyday life. The circle continues.”

OCTOBER 12: Tower (dir. Keith Maitland) (DPs: Keith Maitland and Sarah Wilson)Film Forum synopsis: “The morning of August 1, 1966, was bright and sunny at the University of Texas at Austin. Students chatted, strolled to class, and sipped coffee at the student union; a paperboy made his rounds on a bicycle with a pal on the handlebars. But then a sniper rode the elevator to the top of the UT Tower and opened fire. He held the campus hostage for 96 long, horrific minutes, and when the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll was 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a nation traumatized by the first mass school shooting in history. Combining archival footage, hypnotic rotoscopic animation, and contemporary interviews with witnesses, Tower vividly recreates the terrifying event and reveals untold stories of unlikely heroes and victims. All too familiar today, this massacre was unthinkable in mid-1960s America. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2016 South by Southwest Festival.”

OCTOBER 14: Certain Women (dir. Kelly Reichardt)Toronto International Film Festival synopsis/review by Andréa Picard: “Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Night Moves) directs Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone in this tripartite portrait of striving, independent women whose lives intersect in suggestive and powerful ways.

“The latest film from Kelly Reichardt not only confirms the writer-director-editor as one of today’s leading filmmakers, but an extraordinary director of actors. Based on short stories from Maile Meloy’s collection Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, Certain Women is a tripartite portrait of striving, independent women whose lives intersect in suggestive and powerful ways. Gutsily eschewing narrative closure, Reichardt connects her characters less through plot than through place and various illustrations of one of the film’s main themes: deferred desire.

“Shot against the stunning backdrop of Montana’s mountains and pastoral, big-skied landscapes in ravishing 16mm, Reichardt’s film adopts an episodic structure as it abruptly drops us into the lives of four strong women, who are all living intensely yet evince a certain loneliness and longing as they endeavour to understand and shape the world around them. Laura (Laura Dern) is an overworked, no-nonsense lawyer battling office sexism who is thrust into a hostage situation by a disgruntled client who feels unjustly served by his worker’s compensation claim. Gina (Reichardt regular Michelle Williams) is an ambitious wife and mother building a new home with her husband, with whom tensions arise over their disparate approaches to the project. Newcomer Lily Gladstone is quietly wrenching as a small-town ranch hand who develops an endearing attachment to the harried lawyer (Kristen Stewart, fidgety and formidable) who teaches her biweekly adult education classes.

“Supremely elegant and fiercely intelligent, the deceptively small-scale vignettes in Certain Women combine to create a canvas of vast terrain and small yet meaningful gestures, of quiet yearning and subtle catharsis. With the help of her magnificent cast, Reichardt has created a masterful, profoundly empathetic film about the everyday disappointments and minor victories that make up one’s existence — a film that reveals these certain women as both painfully vulnerable and unfathomably resilient in the face of life’s many uncertainties.”

OCTOBER 14 (NYC), NOVEMBER 4 (LA): The David Dance (dir. Aprill Winney)From the film’s official website: “Away from the microphone, David is soft spoken, shy and unsure of himself. However, as his on-air alias, ‘Danger Dave’ – host of the local radio show ‘Gay Talk’ in Buffalo, New York – he’s poised, witty and every listener’s best friend. His sister, Kate, is a thrice divorced banker with a yen for classical music and cats. Though successful, the siblings suffer from a secret, yet vast sense of inadequacy. Kate decides to adopt an orphan in Brazil and asks David to be a father figure. Meanwhile, David grapples with his self-doubts while gawkily romancing his co-worker. Past and present intertwine in this bittersweet winter’s tale of a man learning to love and accept himself.”

OCTOBER 14: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (dirs. Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn-Whack)Human Rights Arts & Film Festival synopsis: “Dr. Maya Angelou’s legendary writings including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Phenomenal Woman and On the Pulse of Morning are merely a few examples of how words can truly change the world. Although she is most well noted for her poetry, Maya Angelou and Still I Rise celebrates her multiple talents including singing, dancing, filmmaking, academia and civil rights activism, how she inspired generations, pushed boundaries and never ceased in her long fight for freedom for all. Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn-Whack’s extraordinary film seamlessly weaves the key messages of her poetry into the narrative of her life with rare archival footage, interviews and of course, recitals of her original works. Powerful, proud and prolific, Angelou’s story is one of true courage and creativity of a woman who fought for her beliefs and lived life to the fullest.”

OCTOBER 14 (NYC) (it opened on SEPTEMBER 23 in LA): 100 Years (dir. Melinda Janko)From the film’s official website: “When Elouise Cobell, a petite Blackfeet warrior from Montana, started asking questions about missing money from government managed Indian Trust accounts, she never imagined that one day she would be taking on the world’s most powerful government. But what she discovered as the Treasurer of her tribe was a trail of fraud and corruption leading all the way from Montana to Washington DC. 100 Years is the story of her 30-year fight for justice for 300,000 Native Americans whose mineral rich lands were grossly mismanaged by the United States Government. In 1996, Cobell filed the largest class action lawsuit ever filed against the federal government. For fifteen long years, and through three Presidential administrations, Elouise Cobell’s unrelenting spirit never quit. This is the compelling true story of how she prevailed.”

OCTOBER 21: It Had to Be You (dir. Sasha Gordon)From the film’s official website: “Sonia (Cristin Milioti) is a neurotic jingle writer who’s always dreamt of a big and exciting life. Surprised by a sudden proposal and subsequent ultimatum from her easy-going boyfriend, Chris (Dan Soder), Sonia has to decide whether she’ll join the ranks of her married friends or take a leap and pursue her fantasies. A whimsical romantic comedy that’s raunchy and yet gentle, It Had to Be You explores the choices women face today while satirizing cultural expectations of gender and romance.”

OCTOBER 21: The Uncondemned (dirs. Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel)Chicago Reader synopsis: “During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, an estimated 800,000 people—mostly Tutsis—were massacred in just 100 days by the Hutus (the majority ethnic group). Three years later a United Nations-backed international tribunal in Tanzania sought the first-ever conviction of genocide as a legally defined crime when it tried Jean-Paul Akayesu for atrocities he condoned or perpetrated while he was mayor of Taba, a Rwandan commune. In their eye-opening documentary, directors Nick Louvel and Michele Mitchell reveal how the young, idealistic prosecutors, already overextended, uncovered evidence of the systematic violation, torture, mutilation, and enslavement of women in Taba; they soon after amended their case to add rape to Akayesu’s list of crimes against humanity. Interviewees include three resolute female survivors of the ethnic cleansing, who testified at great risk.”

(Note: Co-director Nick Louvel passed away after a car accident last year.)

OCTOBER 21: The Whole Truth (dir. Courtney Hunt)FilmNation Entertainment synopsis: “Defending a client in a murder trial is already intense; but for lawyer Richard Ramsay (Keanu Reeves), the stakes are even higher. His client is young Mike Lassiter (Gabriel Basso), a 17-year old accused of murdering his father, Boone (Jim Belushi). Ramsay has been friendly with the Lassiter family for years, and has sworn to widow Loretta (Renée Zellweger) that he will keep Mike out of prison.

“The problem is that Mike hasn’t said a word since the murder, except to initially confess that he was the one who stabbed his father. Ramsay is a shrewd lawyer, but knows that until his client chooses to speak – even if just to Ramsay himself – he doesn’t have much of a chance.

“At Ramsey’s side is a new colleague, Janelle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who seems to have an unerring knack for seeing through a witness’ lies. As the lawyers play a delicate chess game and manage to get new revelations to come to light – including evidence about just the kind of man that Boone Lassiter was – Ramsay utilizes every scheme in the book to get his client acquitted, while Janelle begins to realize that the whole truth is something that perhaps no one but she will ever recognize.”

OCTOBER 26: Portrait of a Garden (dir./DP: Rosie Stapel)Film Forum synopsis: “The oldest and most beautiful ‘kitchen garden’ in the Netherlands belongs to an estate that dates backs to 1630. Today it is owned by Daan van der Have, who cares for it meticulously, with 85-year-old pruning master Jan Freriks. Rosie Stapel’s debut feature records their passionate oversight of the innumerable vegetables and flowering trees to which they are devoted. The two are marvelous company, whether shaping a black mulberry espalier (the rules for which date back to King Louis XIV), debating the proper care for bear’s garlic, fennel, spring green cabbage, beetroot or Japanese wine berry, or contemplating their 15-year wait for the pear trees on both sides of an arbor to grow into a perfect semi-circle. They console themselves that ‘banking will diminish due to automation, but thinning our plums is here to stay.’ Their connoisseurship, depth of knowledge (extending back generations), and exacting care, bear beautiful fruit – and an elegant, meditative film.”

OCTOBER 28: By Sidney Lumet (dir. Nancy Buirski)From a Hollywood Reporter review by David Rooney: “How fitting that By Sidney Lumet, documentary maker Nancy Buirski’s engrossing career chronicle of the prolific director, begins with a clip from 12 Angry Men in which Henry Fonda’s reasonable doubt over the case being argued makes him the lone holdout of the dozen jurors. Built around an exhaustive video interview with Lumet recorded three years before his death in 2011, the film provides a detailed survey of his work. It also sheds light on the profoundly moral and inherently democratic sensibility that shaped his output, in which questions of justice and fairness provide a thematic bedrock, albeit one that Lumet claims was formed more by accident than design.

“Having the film’s subject be the sole commentator on his artistic achievements might yield a narrow perspective in most cases. But the honesty that characterized Lumet’s most enduring films also applies here to his candid assessment of himself and his screen legacy. Humility is perhaps the wrong word for someone fully aware of having produced a considerable volume of important work. But the absence of self-congratulation, and the detached objectivity of his analysis are refreshing.

“Whether it’s the early works that followed his emergence from live television; the celebrated titles that helped define the gritty social consciousness of so much American cinema of the 1970s, like Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico and Network; the critical and commercial failures like Daniel; or the underappreciated treasures like Running on Empty, the abundance of clips here are deftly chosen and play remarkably well out of context.”

OCTOBER 28: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (dir. Osgood “Oz” Perkins) (DP: Julie Kirkwood)From an LA Weekly review by April Wolfe: “Writer-director Osgood Perkins has been peeking at my Shirley Jackson book collection, and he’s already read through my favorites: The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. His sophomore feature, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, is a magical amalgam of these novels, something like the most atmospherically faithful adaptation ever of a Jackson book that never existed. No time is wasted getting fated hospice nurse Lily (Ruth Wilson) into a specter-ridden old Massachusetts home, where she tells us in voice-over that she’s 28 years old and will not reach the age of 29. But if you’ve read any Jackson novels, you know that’s not really a giveaway — what is really frightening is the how, the slow, circular fall into quiet madness.

“The how of I Am the Pretty Thing… is so chilling, so purely artistic, that I found myself scribbling four full pages of notes to remember my thoughts in the darkened theater. This is not a movie of gore or plot. Instead, voice-over in lyrically written prose from the nurse guides viewers on a meditation through the haunted house, while we watch her fix the carpet that’s always somehow folding over (even though she’s the only one who’s walking around), or run her finger over a bubble under the whitewashed walls of the pristine colonial home of her new patient, elderly horror novelist Iris Blum (Paula Prentiss). The bubble begins to rot, infecting the panels with a bloom of black mold — the devil is in the details, here.

“…Cinematographer Julie Kirkwood oscillates between deep and shallow depth of field, in the case of the latter blanketing much of the frame in a hazy blur, never racking focus to find the subject. Descending the stairs, Lily glides at a snail’s pace into clarity — Kirkwood lets the actress come to her. Odd low angles also prove effective. The camera does not move up or down; it’s either peering upward or downward while stationary, or panning molasses-slow from left to right, which takes enormous skill and patience for a cam operator and leaves the impression that every scene is a smeared memory.

“All the action takes place inside this house, like a sealed coffin. The windows are closed, but not tight enough to lock out the overwhelming chirping of insects, like a thrumming pulse that only grows louder, harsher, as time wears on, pattering rain replacing the crickets. The house and costumes are all tones of white and goldenrod, clean and bright contrasting with the black spore infection. There are no heavy shadows, mostly just light and dark, so when Lily peers from the lighted hallway to a gauzy-black room beyond, it’s difficult to tell if she’s actually seeing a ghost or conjuring her from her imagination. And in this film, the framing is such that there is nearly always a darkened room just beyond the lighted one.

“There’s an atmosphere of moisture, of never feeling dry or right or uncomfortable, even when everything on the screen is seemingly beautiful. It’s no coincidence that Perkins’ father is Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame (and so many other less commercially successful but art-house–worshiped movies), because there are easily shades of his father’s subtly chilling yet undeniably endearing performances in this film. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House is the very best of Gothic horror, that which needles at your insecure core and whispers in your ear what you already suspected: You will never be all right.”