JULIE & JULIA

Blogger Julie Powell had a lot of hard days and long weeks in 2001. In her book, Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, she tells us she worked in a cubicle in an office overlooking Ground Zero, and the 9/11 tragedy was an omnipresent fact of her life. But instead of wallowing, she… Continue reading JULIE & JULIA

THE HURT LOCKER

Date: Summer 2004. Place: Iraq. Army Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), and Sergeant J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) are members of an American EOD squad (“Explosive Ordinance Disposal”). Day after day after day, they crisscross the streets of Baghdad in their humvee, responding to calls from military patrols that have… Continue reading THE HURT LOCKER

Film Review: A JURY OF HER PEERS

30-minute Oscar-nominated short feature (based on a 1917 novella by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Susan Glaspell) that has become a feminist classic. Believing that a woman killed her husband, a group of men search her house for evidence plus a motive. Jan frequently shows JURY during her lectures on women filmmakers. New tapes available from WOMEN… Continue reading Film Review: A JURY OF HER PEERS

Film Review: THE JOY LUCK CLUB

4 women emigrate from China, becoming friends in San Francisco. Each has a daughter who comes of age during the height of the women’s movement in the ’70’s. Shame on Hollywood: 8 superlative performances & not a single Oscar nomination? We nominate Kieu Chinh & France Nuyen. Bring Kleenex! More on THE JOY LUCK CLUB.

Film Review: JESUS CAMP

While we were not big fans of this team’s previous effort BOYS OF BARAKA, this time they’ve hit a home run with an insightful look at how kids are being raised in some of America’s most fervent Evangelical Christian homes. Respectfully-filmed, this totally chilled us down to our bones. More on JESUS CAMP.

JUNO: Here’s Proof!

    Because I am a very vocal advocate for women filmmakers & I spout Martha Lauzen’s “celluloid ceiling” stats every chance I get, some people assume that I am biased towards women filmmakers & promote their work without sufficient critical distance.  People who really know my work, know this is bunk.  There are many films… Continue reading JUNO: Here’s Proof!

Film Review: JAPANESE STORY

Beautifully understated story about culture clash showcasing Collette as a workaholic Australian geologist forced to play tour guide for a visiting Japanese investor. Shot primarily in the vast Australian outback, the cinematography’s hypnotic. The subtle score reaches a poignant intensity as Collette watches her new friend board his flight home. More on JAPANESE STORY.

Film Review: INTRODUCING THE DWIGHTS

Split Decision: Expecting a “comedy,” Rich was put off by Blethyn’s narcissistic, overbearing Mom. Expecting a “dramedy” (& having more personal experience in the spotlight), Jan was thoroughly charmed by this Australian tale of a middle-age comedienne slowly but surely growing up. Chittenden & Wilson are both excellent as Blethyn’s sons. More on INTRODUCING THE… Continue reading Film Review: INTRODUCING THE DWIGHTS

Film Review: IN MY COUNTRY

Delicate exploration of how people come to betray their principles, based on the memoir of an Afrikans journalist (called here “Anna Malan” & played by Juliette Binoche) who covered South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission hearings in the mid-90’s. Samuel L. Jackson plays “Langston Whitfield” (Malan’s know-it-all antagonist from the Washington Post). Brendan Gleeson plays “Colonel… Continue reading Film Review: IN MY COUNTRY

IN HER SHOES

Screenwriter Suzannah Grant does for Cameron Diaz what she did for Julia Roberts in ERIN BROCKOVICH: creates a flawed but multi-dimensional woman & then helps her grow. (Based on the best-selling 2003 novel by Jennifer Weiner.) Get past the fact that these characters are all supposed to be Jewish (Shirely MacLaine plays “Bubbe”) & enjoy… Continue reading IN HER SHOES

Film Review: IN AMERICA

There’s a lot to like in this semi-autobiographical story about an Irish family living illegally in 1980’s Manhattan, but midway thru it turns totally predictable & we left the theater in dry-eyed disappointment. Question: When will charismatic Djimon Hounsou finally get a part that’s worthy of him? More on IN AMERICA.

Film Review: I SHOT ANDY WARHOL

In 1968, Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol, creating havoc in Manhattan’s trendy art world. Taylor won great acclaim as Valerie, capturing both her tremendous intelligence & her total pathos. Abused as a child, Valerie was consumed by rage & lived her life at the edge of self-destruction. What a waste! More on I SHOT ANDY… Continue reading Film Review: I SHOT ANDY WARHOL

Film Review: HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS

Raw slice of working-class life. Deserted by her father in her early teens, Debby now has a love/hate relationship with men, alternating between desperate need & caustic anger. Thurman does well in a grating, almost thankless part. Lewis & Rowlands are both touching as her best friend & her mother. More on HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS.

Film Review: HOWARD’S END

Oscar-winner Thompson owns this film. She’s an intelligent, educated woman in Edwardian England torn between her bohemian sister (Carter) & her new husband (Hopkins) a conservative upper-crust businessman. Personal Best for the whole Merchant Ivory team, especially Jhabvala (who also won an Oscar for her fine adaptation of Forster’s novel). More on HOWARD’S END.

Film Review: HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT

Flin (Wynona Ryder) retreats to her grandmother’s house to “finish her thesis” after her live-in lover proposes. One by one, the members of grandma’s quilting circle impart their life lessons. Most stories are told by pairs of uncannily well-matched (ingenue & veteran) actresses. A feminist-lite treat with a lovely Coplanesque score. More on HOW TO… Continue reading Film Review: HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT

Film Review: HOLY SMOKE

Difficult to watch but ultimately rewarding. A young Australian woman travels to India & is overwhelmed by the potential for a different way of life. Her family (heavily caricatured) decides she has been brainwashed, so they lure her home & place her in the hands of an over-confident cult deprogrammer. More on HOLY SMOKE.

Film Review: THE HOLY GIRL

Hauntingly beautiful Argentinian coming-of-age film set in a respectable yet rapidly aging hotel. Both mother (the proprietress) & daughter find themselves becoming involved with one of the physicians attending a medical convention. More on THE HOLY GIRL.

Film Review: HIGH ART

An ambitious editor discovers that her neighbor is a famous recluse. The jaded older woman is drawn in by the young woman’s innocence & energy. Powerful depiction of the multiple, highly charged currents that flow in mentor/mentee relationships. Ally Sheedy’s best part ever won her multiple awards. Warning: adults only. More on HIGH ART.

Film Review: HIDEOUS KINKY

A ‘60’s flashback. Kate Winslet stars as a young woman in search of enlightenment who moves to Morocco with her two young daughters in tow. Based on the autobiography of the youngest daughter, who explores her mother’s life & times with tender but merciless precision. More on HIDEOUS KINKY.

Film Review: HEIR TO AN EXECUTION

Documentary about Ethel & Julius Rosenberg, executed in 1953 for “stealing the secret of the atom bomb.” SPLIT DECISION: Rich thinks Meeropol should be more forthright about her grandparent’s espionage activities; Jan thinks what’s most relevant are the parallels between McCarthyism & the current threat to civil liberties after 9/11.***** For more, see the “Columns”… Continue reading Film Review: HEIR TO AN EXECUTION

Film Review: HARD GOODBYES: MY FATHER

Greek middle-class family copes with sudden tragedy. Story’s told from the perspective of young Elias (Karayannis), who communicates more about his parent’s relationship than he actually understands. Beautifully retrained, with no distracting melodrama. Tsirigouli (Elias’s mother) & Stergioglou (Elias’s uncle) are especially touching, bearing their adult responsibilities with sad-eyed grace. More on Hard Goodbyes: My… Continue reading Film Review: HARD GOODBYES: MY FATHER

Film Review: HAIRSPRAY (2007)

Ebullient musical version of John Waters’ transgressive classic about a chubby teen (Blonsky) whose joie de vivre topples racial barriers, aka DIRTY DANCING goes Baltimore. Travolta plays Mom (!); Walken play Dad; Efron plays the love object. Pfeiffer has great fun as the skinny blonde nemesis, & Walters gets his Hitchcock moment. More on HAIRSPRAY.

HONEYDRIPPER: CIFF ’07 Review

Director/Screenwriter John Sayles & Producer/Partner Maggie Renzi show their new film HONEYDRIPPER to an exuberant CIFF crowd at the Music Box Theatre on 10/15. FF2 Haiku: Deep South circa 1950: dawn of electrified R&B. Huge ensemble cast is uniformly excellent with breakout performance by Gary Clark Jr., augmented by period songs knit together by Mason… Continue reading HONEYDRIPPER: CIFF ’07 Review

I’M THROUGH WITH WHITE GIRLS: CIFF ’07 Review

First time director Jennifer Sharp “SWANs Up” after the Q&A for her screening of I’M THROUGH WITH WHITE GIRLS at the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival.  This is a terrific film which definitely deserves distribution.  Hey, Spike Lee: your Sista needs you to give her a boost! Read FF2 haiku. (Photo: Jan Lisa Huttner)

JAPANESE STORY

Beautifully understated story about culture clash showcasing Collette as a workaholic Australian geologist forced to play tour guide for a visiting Japanese investor. Shot primarily in the vast Australian outback, the cinematography’s hypnotic. The subtle score reaches a poignant intensity as Collette watches her new friend board his flight home.