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


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

4/23/14

Miss Meadows: Sinister Sitcomish Katie Holmes Seemingly Does Uzi And Harriet


Signifying the seriously split personality divide in this country - and likewise quite the elephant in the room - is what may best describe the dilemma at hand in terms of the two biggest exports of America to the rest of the world: Hollywood and weapons of war. Along with a culture fixated on insatiable rampant cheery consumerism, while promoting morally indignant posturing as it engages in brutally exploiting and occupying the rest of the world.

And what more both delightful and disturbing expression of that colossal chasm in a movie, than to personify that contradiction in a prim, daffy and dainty female homicidal vigilante, who could have easily stepped out of a 1950's era serene sitcom to blow away an array of incidental bad guys loitering around her Middle American burb. And though the bloody Red State satirical romp starring Katie Holmes is titled Miss Meadows, it could have just as well been called say, Uzi And Harriet.

As much a movie as a discomforting mirror into the heart of darkness of America as self-appointed dubious moral enforcer around the world, Miss Meadows features a combo mesmerizing and mysterious Holmes decked out in mid-20th century retro mismatched frilly polka dots, stripes and lace frocks. As the spinster superhero schoolteacher frolics around town in patent leather Mary Jane girlish pumps, a naughty when not scary tap dancing terrorist with accessorized purse packing boutique pistol heat.

It seems that prison overcrowding has led to the release of felons into the neighborhood, and a rising violence-ridden crime rate. Not that this tall tale is about to let truth get in the way - namely that an economic crisis plaguing the nation has led to the release of nonviolent inmates, primarily those locked up for decades on the charge of basically being addicted to drugs.

Meanwhile, delightful detours subverting the conventional action thriller, deliberately mix it up uncomfortably with darker, deranged interludes, as the town sheriff (James Badge Dale) - who for his part would rather be playing the accordion than fighting crime - becomes infatuated with Meadows. Even as she's increasingly a serial killer suspect, while prone as well to constantly correcting his grammar. But all of which leads to surprise novelty lovemaking between this odd couple pair, in which the bubbly person of interest exclusively expresses herself sexually in bed with giggles.

And with an opening somewhat borrowing from Thelma And Louise as Miss Meadows guns down a lewd truck driver stalking her down a street, the film lures audiences into cheering on the alternately giddy and gloomy cuddly crime fighter. But filmmaker Karen Leigh Hopkins has much more on her mind than simply homicidal hijinks as entertainment, as the action moves into shock treatment sobering up spectators in the audience, when a pedophile priest is impulsively executed in his parish by the perky vigilante, at point blank range.

In any case, much of the fun here is making sense of Katie herself, possibly getting in touch after all these years - and finally freed from the Cruise religious cult stranglehold - with her inner bad girl once again. And a personal conversion in this movie that Cruise is hardly likely to approve of, but maybe that's the point.

Then there's the question of a more current looming right wing feminism that seems to be rearing its head on screen with this film. And Miss Meadows' mixed messages of initially rejecting the notion of prospective housewife because 'I don't clean houses for a living' - but at the same time fearlessly up to slaughtering perps, in a society with a warped moral foundation of routinely solving problems both internally and abroad with violence - just because of surrounding 'hopeless moral decay.' At least according to her own eager mom she phones up repeatedly, for parental approval.

At the same time, Miss Meadows is likely channeling newer notions about women connected to right wing tendencies right now, in a cynical, peculiar fusion of feminism and femininity. And as hawkish, more macho than thou women counting the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, Michele Bachmann and Victoria "Fuck The EU" Nuland, emerge to occupy seats of power.

Miss Meadows is currently screening at the Tribeca Film Festival. More information is online at Tribecafilm.com.

Prairie Miller

3/28/14

Nymphomaniac I & II: Magical Sadism, Sex Noir And Porn For Eggheads

By Prairie Miller

More over, Blue Is The Warmest Color. In a brazen mix and match of genres and genitals, the notorious Danish bad boy of cinema Lars von Trier would seem to be psychoanalyzing himself in this more tedious than titillating, sleazy when not intellectually stuffy showdown between the sex addict in question and her celibate savior recluse.

And while screen porn has tended to bid for a pass with the censors by dressing up its bare behinds metaphorically in moralistic taglines and scriptural platitudes, Trier blankets his own ensemble backsides. That is, with the pretentious chatter arthouse stamp of approval.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is Joe, the somewhat gender-ambivalent muse standing in for Trier's own hangups as perhaps simultaneously appetite driven and obsessively burrowing into the seductive female mysteries that tantalize him. Which may lead the filmmaker's shrink to demand a screenplay credit at some point.

And not to forget that Trier abandoned his pregnant wife for their young babysitter - a scenario that might be said to sort of play out in Nymphomaniac II, when the androgynous Joe abandons her own infant for sexual pursuits. And is subsequently punished by her scorned spouse (Shia LaBeouf) and his new post-adolescent prey - who is in fact two timing the original extra-marital two timer, Joe. Don't ask.

Meanwhile, or for the four hour ensuing duration to be precise, strictly auto-erotic hermit Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard), retrieves Joe's battered body from an alley and proceeds to nurse her back to health. While existential matters periodically intervene, related to primary conscious notions we don't share with the animal kingdom. And not just awareness of mortality, but the possibility however precarious, of human ethics and conscience as well.

And as the asexual looking, scrawny storyteller sips tea from a very large bowl. And Joe in turn seems to offer as compensation a litany of her lifetime of sordid sexual adventures precipitated in childhood, evidently of far greater interest to the erotically deprived eager bookworm, than anybody in the audience. Not at all a good sign.

Identity issues are nothing new for Trier, whether on screen or the real world. And as a child raised by a Jewish father and communist mother, the latter confessing on her deathbed to Trier that his real secret father was her nazi employer, in her quest for a man with an "artistic" gene pool. And apparently, an illustrious family of Danish composers including Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann and Niels Viggo Bentzon. And when subsequently searching for his biological father, Trier was referred by the elusive 90 year old, to his lawyers instead.

Then there's the scandal that played out at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 for Trier's award winning Melancholia. When he took to the stage and irrelevant to the conversation in progress, rambled on about Hitler not being such a bad guy and his admiration in some ways for him. Which led to the filmmaker being booted and banned from Cannes, and his own subsequent retraction of a sort of apologetic retraction. And a potential grudge alert against the world, in the manner in which he makes his movies.

Needless to say, Nymphomaniac whether One or Two, is sure to proceed as an ordeal for the perverted protagonist of this perhaps closet biopic, and the audience alike. Counting scientifically delineated foreplay, alphabetized lovers, far-fetched female pubescent pickup lines, math and sex, proper cake forks, Jewish pastry, the hunt for men in supermarkets, and a contemplation of all the foreskins in the world, stretching from here to Mars and back again. Or, dangling the likes of Pythagorean theorem, Bach, Poe, The Canterbury Tales and The Decameron.

3/22/14

WFCC Jury Award For Sexual Violence Doc At Rated SR Festival

WFCC Jury Award members Chloe Glickman and Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi present award [center] for director Jessica Vale and her documentary, Small Small Thing

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

The WFCC Prize was awarded by the Women Film Circle Critics at the Rated SR Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York City on March 21st,  for the best feature by or about women. The prize was conferred by WFCC Jury presenters Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi and Chloe Glickman for director Jessica Vale and her documentary, Small Small Thing. Which delves into the tragedy of seven year old Liberian rape victim Olivia Zinnah who died in 2012 from her injuries, despite five years of medical treatments and the intervention of the Liberian government.

...The prize marks an important moment for this year’s festival, since Vanya Exerjian was an actress and producer, who passed away ten years ago and the festival was founded in her memory, and 2014 also marks the 10th anniversary of the Women Films Critic Circle organization. The WFCC is made up of 65 women film critics and scholars from around the country and internationally, who are involved in print, newswire, radio, online and TV broadcast media, in the belief that women’s perspectives and voices in film criticism need to be recognized fully.

The five women film critics from the organization who acted as jurors for the Vanya Exerjian award are: Chloe Glickman, Karen Benardello, Jhoanna Robledo Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi and Debra Wallace...

WFCC Jury Award members Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi and Chloe Glickman [center] with Rated SR Film Festival participants.

CONTINUE TO READ THE ARTICLE HERE

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi writes for King’s Road Magazine and Shockya. Chiara is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle.

3/2/14

Annette Insdorf Talks Oscars With Chris Hayes On MSNBC



WFCC's Annette Insdorf  was invited to talk about Oscar predictions on the MSNBC show, All In with Chris Hayes. David Edelstein of New York Magazine and Christopher John Farley, senior editor of Speakeasy at the Wall Street Journal, also joined in.

**The Oscars gender gap. Chris Hayes talks to his panel about the relatively low bar that test a film's gender bias.

WATCH THE SEGMENT HERE

**The Oscars and demographics of The Academy. Chris Hayes talks to the film critics about an actual Oscar ballot released by an anonymous Academy member.

WATCH THE SEGMENT HERE

Annette Insdorf is the Director Of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University, and the author of Indelible Shadows: Film And The Holocaust, and other books on cinema. Professor Insdorf is an internationally renowned educator, and her works are hailed as the definitive texts on their subjects. She has also been a jury member of numerous international film festivals.

Annette Insdorf is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle.

2/28/14

Yolanda Ross Talks Independent Spirit Awards and Memories of Philip Seymour Hoffman


Dynamic, singular and uber-talented, Yolonda Ross blazed a trail for herself that called the attention of film critics, audiences, her peers and the industry at-large, when she won IFP’s Breakthrough Actor Award in 2001. She was righteously lauded for her complex and urgent portrayal of a woman ‘on-the-outside’ world trying to pierce the walls of a prison by committing a crime, to find her way in to her definition of "home", in Cheryl Dunye's bold feature, Stranger Inside. Ironically, as an actress, she's also spent years, working to find her way ‘in’ and pierce the firm, often insular walls (albeit invisible) of the entertainment industry, where her creative soul knows that "finding home" is the place where she can get juicy work, and share her characters to their fullest with audiences. Not an easy mission met by talented actors, of color -- particularly when packaging, visibility, and casting come into play, in terms of truly breaking through.

That said, she certainly pierced another wall with her praised role as recent-parolee, Fontayne, in John Sayles' earthy, smart slow-burner, Go For Sisters. Financed independently by Sayles, Sisters has brought the spotlight back on the gifted Ms. Ross with her quietly magnetic, nuanced role. Alongside her dynamic co-star, Lisa Gaye Hamilton, she embarks on a road trip across the border -- later joined by Edward James Olmos -- to help her long-time friend, now a parole officer find her missing son, in a the underworld that Fontayne  knows a thing or two about. They're authentic ensemble to the core.

From collaborating with Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Labyrinth Theater Company, to filming, most recently, with Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez in the upcoming Lila & Eve, to appearing in the daring short, Afronauts, that premiered at Sundance 2014, Yolonda has managed to keep herself busy with TV, theater and film work, along her path while working with some fiercely talented filmmakers; though it’s been quite a challenge to just ‘be seen and heard from’. Always hopeful, she's  We caught up with the soulful, clear-eyed Independent Spirit Best Supporting Actress Nominee, Yolonda Ross, who just so happens to be the only actor in her category from an independent film, made outside of ‘Hollywood’. And we say: Go Yolonda! 

Lisa Collins, Guest Host on Arts Express Radio
 

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE
 

Lisa Collins is an independent filmmaker and journalist, and she is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle. Lisa was named by Filmmaker Magazine: 'One of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film.' She was invited to workshop her feature-length script, The Grass Is Greener at the Sundance Writers, Filmmakers and Producers Labs, respectively. The project was also invited to participate in the IFFM / IFP’s No Borders Feature Project program.
 

Lisa's feature documentary is Oscar's Comeback, in which 2 worlds collide at a unique annual festival in all-white town that celebrates their black native son, early 1900s homesteader-turned-film-pioneer, Oscar Micheaux. Controversial and largely forgotten, Micheaux is known to some as the Godfather of Independent Cinema. In addition to receiving support and mentorship from prestigious organization, Oscar's Comeback is proud to have been awarded repeated support from Chicken & Egg Pictures, in the form of an I Believe In You grant. More information about the project is at Oscar's Comeback on Facebook. 
Lisa Collins is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle.