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

10/7/14

Gone Girl: Marriage, Murder And The Media


By Veronica Mixon

The literary buzz about Gillian Flynn’s novel and the anticipation of David Fincher’s film based on the author’s screenplay, is well worth the fuss by the news and social media.  Gone Girl is the most satisfying dramatic mystery that I’ve seen in many, many years.
 

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne who are about to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy simply disappears.  Nick promptly calls the police to his elegant suburban home, and they look at a smashed glass coffee table and a tiny blood smear in the kitchen and begin to suspect foul play.  
 

As they search for Amy, who is well-known because her parents used her as a character in a series of children’s books, the media coverage surrounding this possible tragedy swells into a frenzy of neighbors, curiosity seekers and obsessed fans.  However, Nick’s cool, aloof manner wins him few friends.  While the police led by Detective Boney (Kim Dickens) and the public idolize the beautiful images of his blonde wife, Nick is demonized because he’s an unemployed writer desperate to be liked.  Also, the veneer of his not-so-perfect marriage begins to crumble, and the only support Nick receives is from his sister (Carrie Coon), who honestly confides, “whoever took her is bound to bring her back.”
 

Ms. Flynn has written a superb tale of narcissism in a marriage, and the fantasy and lurid fascination with celebrity constructed from the news.  Director Fincher, whose films include Seven, Zodiac and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, calls this public obsession ‘Tragedy Vampirism.’  He loves delving into the murky world of human folly and bad decisions, and he’s assembled an excellent cast to bring this story to light. 
 

Oscar winner (Argo), Ben Affleck is fearless in his portrayal of feckless Nick.  On and off screen, he’s no stranger to intense media scrutiny, and plays this part perfectly.  The lovely Rosamund Pike, best known for Pride & Prejudice, Die Another Day and Jack Reacher, astounds audiences with an intricate portrait of determined woman with many dark corners.  Watching these two people, you realize that the romantic notion of marriage is a fragile bubble. And, you wonder if underneath it all, how much of marriage is lying.
 

The cast also includes Tyler Perry as Nick’s smart media savvy attorney, and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s weird former beau. Boyd Holbrook and Lora Kirke are equally compelling as a menacing, trashy duo who dispense important life lessons to one of the principle character.
 

Together Ms. Flynn and Mr. Fincher have created a wonderfully twisted film about modern marriage. Whether you’re satisfied or not with the ending, you will not forget this film.

Veronica Mixon is film critic and editor of Film Gazette. She is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle.

7/20/14

HE SAID, SHE SAID....Music, Mystique And Misogyny


                 A MACHO CRITIC FREE ZONE

HE SAID....

By Gerald Wright

'...What the film does explain is the misogyny of Fela Kuti.  His exploitation of women is exposed, but in many scenes of the documentary, interviewees tend to swipe this deplorable attitude under the rug.   Personally, I can not understand how a person who advocated for civil rights, not acknowledge the basic human rights of women.  This leads me to believe that this man of a privileged upper middle-class background used this Human Rights ideology as a scheme or scam, and only used this to encourage a popular trend that grabbed the unrest of a revolutionary era in global history for the marketing of his music.  The 1960s and 1970s were a time in history of protest movements, inherited by many.  Even the rich and famous were embracing this theory, although they wasn't affected by it.  When women were burning bras in support of women's rights and feminism, this man was exploiting them by supporting the lowest form of degradation, misogyny.'

CONTINUE TO READ FINDING FELA REVIEW HERE

Gerald Wright
HDFEST.com
Film Showcase


SHE SAID....

 By S. Jhoanna Robledo

'... the metamorphosis of a young woman who changes from being known as the girlfriend of her famous boyfriend into a musical talent in her own right.'

CONTINUE TO READ BEGIN AGAIN REVIEW HERE

S. Jhoanna Robledo writes for Common Sense Media, and is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle.

6/29/14

Tracks: Are Female Nomads In Movies A Different Discussion?


Tracks is the second dramatic feature to be released recently about a long distance, emotionally fueled journey by a woman on foot. With Mia Wasikowska's Aussie Outback nomad in Tracks following in elder melancholy matriarch Shirley Knight's footsteps, so to speak, in Redwood Highway. But, is it?

The biopic is based on the real life mid-1970s, nearly year long self-proclaimed solo expedition of misanthropic loner Robyn Davidson's determined coast to coast punishing personal quest across 2,000 miles of mostly desert terrain, and with four camels and her dog for companionship. But Tracks displays unintentionally or not, its own conflict in narrative terms. That is, as crafted by first time screenwriter Marion Nelson, between negotiating inner psychological turmoil and the both deathly and dreary physical ordeal of survival in the wilderness.

And while the search for balance tends to favor the immense grandeur, dominance and danger of raw nature, the inner life of Mia's emotionally damaged twentysomething female in flight, diminishes in comparison. In other words, displaying Davidson's hermetic soul, rather than grasping, articulating and plummeting its depths.

Directed by US filmmaker John Curran and based on Australian writer Davidson's memoir, Tracks is in a sense a Eurocentric travelogue more than anything else. And with the impoverished and thwarted lives of the aborigines encountered along the way, simply part of the exotic scenery as well.

Though Wasikowska's intensely grueling performance impressively distills an abundance of unspoken muted fury from the relatively meager when not overly melodramatic material that she is burdened with, physically and psychologically. And not unlike say, Kevin Costner's similar weighty existential pilgrimage, here conveyed in her own sort of Dances With Camels across the Australian wilderness.

Prairie Miller

5/29/14

HE SAID, SHE SAID....The Female In French Biopics: Violette and Yves Saint Laurent


                 A MACHO CRITIC FREE ZONE

HE SAID....

By Gerald Wright

....Levels of love, jealousy, resentment, distrust, insecurity and ambiguity run deep in Violette. So does the gulf between men and women, as the women are  looking at tradition and past, yet aggressively pushing forward for a change....

CONTINUE TO READ VIOLETTE REVIEW HERE

Gerald Wright
HDFEST.com
Film Showcase


SHE SAID....

On rare occasions a movie can say more about a time and place by just displaying that world rather than dissecting or discussing it, and the lavish biopic Yves Saint Laurent seemingly unintentionally, does just that.  Nearly as analytically mute as the both heralded and scandalous French clothing designer in question who died in 2008, the film nevertheless has much to intimate about its historical moment, whether by design so to speak, or not...

...Likewise left unspoken, is Laurent as gay yet more obsessed with women than anything else - as mystifying, subliminal and perhaps envied decorative objects of adoration and creation, but objects in all regards nevertheless. And like the dark side of the fashion world and the dehumanization of the women there serving as compliant, nourishment-deprived dressup dolls and playthings, a subject bereft of explanation or comprehension.

CONTINUE TO READ REVIEW HERE

Prairie Miller

5/28/14

Stand Clear of The Closing Doors Review: Autism, Immigration And Family Trauma


By Jan Aaron

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, a remarkable first feature from Sam Fleischner, focuses on a 13 year old autistic boy's wanderings in the New York subway system and his undocumented Mexican family's frantic search for him above ground. Th e boy, played by Jesus Sanchez-Velez, is in fact autistic and a non-professional actor. Which lends unique realism to this movie.

We first meet Ricky (Sanchez-Velez) at home in Rockaway Beach, Queens, where he lives and goes to school. Ricky often is truant, where he goes barely noticed in classes unsuited to his special needs. Carla (Azur Zorilla), his teen age sister, picks him up after school and takes him home while his mother Mariana (Andrea Suarez-Paz) works as a maid in a lovely home. Father Ricardo (Tenoch Heurta) has a job out of town, and is rarely home.

One day, Carla forgets about Ricky, and he wanders away fascinated by a man with a dragon decal on his jacket and follows him to the subway. Riders converse all around him, but take no notice of him. Then the camera shows us Rickys perceptions: the subway lights become animated blobs targeting him, and we might be in a science fiction thriller as he perceives his underground journey. Days pass and Ricky visibly declines, having nothing to eat but a banana given to him by a homeless man. He urinates on himself, unable to find an unlocked bathroom. Passengers now notice him and move away.

Back in Far Rockway, the family breaks down under the strain of uncertainty. Mariana blames Carla for Ricky's disappearance, and her husband as well for not being there to help. She's forced to forget about her illegal status, and starts scouring  the beaches Ricky loved. And she examines his drawings of sea monsters he also loved. She makes friends with Carmen (Marcia Stephanie Blake), a saleswoman in a sneaker store where Ricky hung out. And with her help, Mariana posts missing person notices and goes with her to the police station.

Meanwhile, Far Rockaway residents are alerted to the approaching Hurricane Sandy, many shrugging off warnings even as it dominates the news. Even filmmaker Fleischner changed his movie to accommodate the super storm. And the buckled remains of the wooden boardwalk on the beach are seen in the background, at the film's too cozy to be believable climax.

Jan Aaron writes for Education Update, and is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle.