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A Sneak Peek At Sundance Film Festival 2019

January 15th, 2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “A Sneak Peek At Sundance Film Festival 2019”

It’s that time of year…It’s time to Sundance! The prestigious film festival founded by Robert Redford to help develop a safe and nurturing space for independent filmmaking has morphed into a high-profile Hollywood scene. While still trying to hold on to its roots, and last year we saw evidence of this, the festival reportedly reeled in a record-breaking number of submissions this year: 14,259 films from 152 countries. The 2019 Sundance Film Festival (SFF) will take place January 24th through February 3rd.
To read the article in its entirety, go
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CINEMAJAW’s Best Female Actresses of 2018

January 7th, 2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “CINEMAJAW’s Best Female Actresses of 2018”

Reviewed this episode: On the Basis of SexTrivia: Best Actress Movie Trivia
CinemaWAR: What is a better courtroom movie – The People v. Larry Flynt or A Few Good Men?
Sponsored by: Cards Against Humanity

Our wrap up of 2018 continues with our Top 5 Female Performances of the year. 2018 was one HELL of a year in film. Perhaps the very best in CinemaJaw history. This week we take a look at the women who gave film performances that helped make this past year what it is.

Joining us is a woman who loves to examine film from the feminine perspective. Pamela Powel has been on the film beat for nearly a decade. With shows on radio, television and the internet, she is a true voice in film criticism. We are proud to call her a friend of the show!

To listen to the podcast, go to http://cinemajaw.com/wordpress/cinemajaw-404-pamela-powell-best-female-performances-of-2018/

Best Documentaries of 2018

January 1st, 2019 Posted by News, Review 0 thoughts on “Best Documentaries of 2018”

I cannot recall a more emotional, educational, and enlightening year in documentary filmmaking. 2018 may forever be remembered as the best in this genre as it tackled important political, global, social and even strange topics, allowing us to walk in another’s shoes, creating empathy and understanding, and most importantly, broadening our horizons as we see the world through a wider lens.

10. MINDING THE GAP by Bing Liu depicts three young men who bond and support one another via skateboarding. Their stories diverge as they grow, highlighting their environment and family background as they find resiliency to rise above.

9. FREE SOLO might be one of the most nerve-racking documentaries I’ve seen as I watched a young man, Alex Honnold, “train” to climb the face of El Capitan in Yosemite without any safety ropes. Stunning cinematography punctuate this death-defying endeavor with an unusual backstory. To describe it as gripping is both a pun and an understatement! Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. E

8. ON HER SHOULDERS tells the inspiring story of Nadia Murad who defied the social and gender confines of her culture and enlightened the world. With her efforts, this young woman, sometimes reluctantly-so is changing our understanding of ISIS, equality, and humanity. Directed by Alexandria Bombach.

7. PICK OF THE LITTER gives us insight into what it takes to become a guide dog for the blind. The dynamic filmmaking duo, Dana Nachman and Don Hardy, partner up again to tug on our heartstrings and keep us on the edge of our seats as we watch and root for these puppies who vie for giving a human the much-needed independence. It’s a captivatingly beautiful story that connects you with these pups, their training families, and with those who need their services.

6. SCIENCE FAIR gives us hope in our future leaders as filmmakers Cristina Constantini and Darren Foster follow nine young high school students as they attempt to be “Best in Fair.” This age is a complicated one, but compounding the typical emotional ups and downs is the heavy burden to prove you’re the most intelligent. “Science Fair” is a riveting story with humor as these kids race to the finish line.

5. DIVIDE AND CONQUER: THE STORY OF ROGER AILES will awaken your senses as you begin to understand who the founder of Fox News was. The filmmaker, Alexis Bloom, creates a compelling story using found footage, childhood photos, and interviews from those who knew him best. As the story progresses, we see his true colors, changing the course of history for individuals as well as the United States.

4. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR is one of the most timely and heartwarming documentaries of the year as it depicts Fred Rogers’ life. Whether or not you were a fan of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” as a child, this film will inspire you and remind you of what’s truly important in life as you see this man’s life-long endeavor to help children in a volatile world. Have tissues handy! Directed by Morgan Neville

3. THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS begins as a sweet and coincidental story that takes heart-wrenching and unbelievable turns, creating an incredibly bizarre and disturbing story. Triplets, separated “at birth,” are reunited, but the circumstances under which these babies were taken is the core of the story. Reminiscent of human experimentation, it’s an inconceivable unfolding of events with dire consequences. Directed by Tim Wardle

2. LOVE, GILDA is first-time feature filmmaker Lisa D’Apolito’s uplifting and comedic project showcasing the life of Gilda Radner. While the young comic’s life was cut short by cancer, D’Apolito brings her back to life with found footage of Radner’s childhood, photographs, and readings from her journal. Radner’s unique voice is heard as we are reminded of the importance of love and laughter. Available on CNN Jan. 1

RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, finds its way into the number 1 position, depicting the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. This is nothing like what you might expect a film about a Justice to be as it is filled with wonderful humor, great sadness, compassion, and at its core, this is a love story. West and Cohen allow us into Ginsberg’s remarkable life creating a story about a true super hero who changed the world for women and equality. Her story is an important one to know and one which will inspire future generations of young women to stand up and be heard. After viewing “RBG,” be sure to see “On the Basis of Sex,” starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer and directed by Mimi Leder. To read my interview with Cohen and West for FF2 Media, go to https://ff2media.com/blog/2018/04/30/rbg-documents-extraordinary-life-of-ruth-bader-ginsburg/

TIED FOR 11th PLACE: With so many great docs, it was tough to stick to just 10, so here are a few more to put on your list to see: FUNNY TWEETS by Laurie McGuinness, SOCIAL ANIMALS by Jonathan Ignatius Green, FAHRENHEIT 11/9 by Michael Moore, and DARK MONEY by Kimberly Reed.

The Best of 2018

December 24th, 2018 Posted by News, Review 0 thoughts on “The Best of 2018”

This year, from my vantage point, has provided some of the most inspiring and poignant films in recent memory.  From documentaries punctuating the fact that truth is many times stranger than fiction and stories that give us hope to narrative features integrating politics, the environment, religion and accentuating the need for identity, it’s been a remarkable year.  

As I began to compile my “best of” list, I had more than 30 films so I created 2 categories:  Best Feature Film and Best Documentaries.  It seemed only fair.  But even separating them into categories didn’t help as much as I had wanted.  Many of my choices which didn’t make it, toggled back and forth between the top ten slots and as my film critic partner Chuck Koplinski says, “Tied for 11th place.”  The “winners” who made it into my top 10 were the films that in addition to being a great story told well (as Robert Redford always says), these are films which moved me the most and still evoke an emotional response even after viewing it more than once.  All of my “tied for 11th place” choices are great movies with amazing performances and outstanding cinematography, but the final decision weighed upon the lasting effects of the film.

BEST FEATURE FILMS

10.  WHAT THEY HAD: Elizabeth Chomko’s writing and directorial debut depicts a family’s struggle with “doing what’s best” or Ruth (Blythe Danner) whose dementia is worsening.  Hilary Swank and Michael Shannon create a realistic sibling relationship as they attempt and frequently fail at agreeing on Mom’s care and Robert Forster gives us a remarkably memorable performance as Ruth’s husband.

9.  PUZZLE: Polly Mann and Oren Moverman recreate the Argentinian story of Agnes (Kelly Macdonald) whose insulated life as a mother and wife is awakened as she discovers a world outside of her own.  Mark Turtletaub directs this deeply layered story with religious elements and parallels that pushes the boundaries of storytelling.

8.  CAPERNAUM:  Taking place in Lebanon, a streetwise kid is suing his parents for neglect.  The film takes us on his harrowing journey that landed him behind bars and in the situation at hand.  Nadine Labaki directs young Zain Al Rafeea who gives a soulful performance that haunts you long after the credits roll.   

7.  ROMA:  Alfonso Cuaron pays homage to the strong women in his life, his mother, grandmother, and a live-in servant, in this sometimes surreal and always poignant memoir.  Cuaron finds a way to reinvent filmmaking with “Roma” as he finds and showcases the extraordinary talents of newcomer Yalitza Aparicio.

6.  THE GUILTY:  Gustov Moller writes and directs this one-man show taking place in a single room, but thanks to succinct and descriptive writing, your mind takes you to several location as you insert the various characters into the film.  Jakob Cedergren creates the role of Ashgar, a dispatch police officer who receives a call from a kidnapped woman.  His own baggage finds its way into the unfolding and incredibly tense story that has you on the edge of your seat, unable to predict the upcoming twists and turns.

5.  AMERICAN ANIMALS:  Unique storytelling techinques find their way into this film as Bart Layton recreates a Lexington, KY Transylvania University library heist.  Editing is key in this strange yet true story and Layton is a master as we watch these character spiral slowly downward.  Inserting interviews with the actual characters elevates the incredible story to make this one of the most entertaining and unusual films of the year.

4.  CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?:  The world seems to provide many strange stories for filmmakers to bring to the masses and Nicole Holefcener has found Lee Israel, a writer who’s hit rock bottom and finds she is quite talented in the art of forgery.  Marielle Heller directs Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant as unlikely friends and business partners, each attempting to find meaning in their lives.  McCarthy is able to show us her dramatic talents in this complex and beautiful role while Grant uses his authenticity and style to give balance and provide levity and love in this heartfelt story.

3.  MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS:  Josie Rourke directs Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie who portray royal sisters, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I, respectively.  Rourke brings history to life as we gain insight and understanding to a story of greed, power, and love all effected by religion and gender.  Ronan and Robbie are extraordinary as we learn about the centuries-old story of sisterly rivalry.

2.  FIRST REFORMED:  Paul Schrader writes and directs Ethan Hawke as a pastor wrestling his inner demons and understanding of life, religion, politics, and the doomed environment.  It’s an exquisite and eloquent story of hope versus despair pushing your intellectual and emotional breaking point to its limits.  This is, by far, Hawke’s best performance.

  1.  WILDLIFE:  Zoe Kazan and Paul Dano write the screenplay while Dano takes the director’s chair to tell the story of a young teen watching and dealing with his parents’ failing marriage.  Ed Oxenbould gives an Oscar-worthy performance of a boy who must grow up and understand his circumstances at much too early of an age.  Carey Mulligan’s performance is equally complicated and extraordinary as the flawed wife and mother who must find independence.  As a viewer, it’s difficult to watch the life-altering decisions, yet the characters are so rich that you immediately understand their every thought.  “Wildlife” is a film to watch and dissect each and every scene, learning what drives the characters and how the subtle and nuanced performances convey these emotions.

Watch for an upcoming article for the Top 10 Documentaries of 2018!

An Interview with Jennifer Karum

December 20th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “An Interview with Jennifer Karum”

Autism is a word that in today’s schools and society we hear quite often. Our own hometown of Kankakee has, for years, supported Autism Speaks through the Kilbride Family Classic, now known as the Run for Autism.

And through supportive programs such as the Merchant Street Art Gallery of Artists with Autism, the public gets a chance to better appreciate the talents of a population that affects more than 3.5 million Americans, according to the Autism Society.

You might be wondering how autism and film are related as your local film critic is writing this story.

The answer is not only an easy one, but an inspiring one: Jennifer Karum. Through Chicago networking, Karum connected with me about a web series, “Conrad,” she created and recently premiered at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Through numerous conversations and a formal interview recently, Karum shared her thoughts about growing up and her current accomplishments. Here’s what she had to say.

To read the interview in its entirety, go to https://www.daily-journal.com/life/entertainment/q-a-with-conrad-s-jennifer-karum/article_83851c40-023a-11e9-974c-0fe795333f39.html

2018 Women Film Critic Circle Award Winners

December 12th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “2018 Women Film Critic Circle Award Winners”

The 2018 Women Film Critic Circle Awards have been announced.  This organization,  comprised of 75 women film critics since 2004, gives greater voice to films by and pertaining to women.  Their unique categories highlight this aspect of filmmaking, but the “special mention” awards find an even deeper meaning to women in this industry. 

The biggest winner this year is “The Favourite” with three wins: Best Movie About Women, Best Actress (Olivia Colman), and Best Comedic Actress (Olivia Colman).  “Roma,” “Eighth Grade,” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” all gathered two awards each.  

 As a member of this organization, I’m proud to share this year’s WFCC Award winners:

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN

**The Favourite

Runner-up: Roma

BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN

**Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Runner-up: Leave No Trace

BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER [Screenwriting Award]

**Audrey Wells: The Hate U Give 

Runner-up: Debra Granik: Leave No Trace

BEST ACTRESS

**Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Runner-up: Toni Collette, Hereditary

BEST ACTOR

**Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Runner-up: Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

BEST COMEDIC ACTRESS

**Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Runner-up: Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

BEST YOUNG ACTRESS

**Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Runner-up: Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace

BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

**Roma

Runner-up: Capernaum

BEST DOCUMENTARY BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

**RBG

Runner-Up: Shirkers

WOMEN’S WORK/BEST ENSEMBLE

**Widows

Runner-Up: The Favourite

SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS

COURAGE IN FILMMAKING

**Jennifer Fox, The Tale

Runner-Up: Haifaa Al-Mansour, Mary Shelley

COURAGE IN ACTING [Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]

**Nicole Kidman: Destroyer

Runner-Up: Viola Davis: Widows

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: For a film that most passionately opposes violence against wom

**Say Her Name: The Life And Death Of Sandra Bland

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: For best expressing the woman of color experience in America

**If Beale Street Could Talk

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: For best exemplifying a woman’s place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity

**Roma

*THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD: [Performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]

**Glenn Close, The Wife

ACTING AND ACTIVISM

**Viola Davis

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Ellen Burstyn

BEST KEPT SECRET AWARD

All The Overlooked ‘Gone Girls Of Cinema’ PIONEERS: FIRST WOMEN FILMMAKERSA Kino Lorber Collectors Edition Release.

BEST SCREEN COUPLE

**If Beale Street Could Talk

BEST FEMALE ACTION HEROES

**Black Panther

MOMMIE DEAREST WORST SCREEN MOM OF THE YEAR AWARD

**Jacki Weaver: Widows

BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES

**Black Panther

BEST ANIMATED FEMALES

**Incredibles 2

BEST FAMILY FILM

**Eighth Grade

HALL OF SHAME 

**Member Picks:

*Fifty Shades Freed: For perpetuating unrealistic and demeaning stereotypes of women, being defined by men emotionally and physically.

*Bryan Singer: Accused of committing crimes against young men, his continued status as a hirable, high-paid director is an affront to the women in the film industry who are struggling for recognition. 

*Les Moonves: Chairman and CEO of CBS, Moonves resigned in light of allegations that he sexually abused many women, and information on the culture of fear that he reigned over is now coming out.

Baby It’s Cold Outside. This traditional holiday season song has now been banned on radio stations following Me-Too protests, as promoting suggestive date rape lyrics. The debate that has followed is raising critical issues for discussion, but all agree that the male character, however culturally dated, is creepy. The Oscar winning song originated in the 1949 musicalNeptune’s Daughter, performed by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban.

Q&A with AARP Studios Vice President Jeffrey Eagle

November 24th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Q&A with AARP Studios Vice President Jeffrey Eagle”

“Care to Laugh” is the first feature-length documentary film to come out of AARP Studios. While the studio has been in existence for the last decade, bringing topical information to 50-plus year olds, the creation of feature films for theatrical release is a relatively new endeavor.

Comedian Jesus Trejo stars in “Care to Laugh,” a documentary about the balancing act of caring for his aging parents and perfecting his craft as a comic. As the film travels to various festivals around the country, collecting awards and praise by all who see it, it’s obvious that the topic of caring for our loved ones as they age resonates with everyone, no matter their age.

I recently sat down with director Julie Getz, star and comedian Jesus Trejo, and vice president and executive producer of AARP Studios, Jeffrey Eagle, to discuss the film, now a part of NYC DOC. What I learned about the film, the studios and their endeavors was quite surprising and just might give you a new outlook on one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the U.S.

Go to THE DAILY JOURNAL to read the interview in its entirety.

TIFF 2018, An interview with filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald

August 26th, 2018 Posted by Film Festivals, News 0 thoughts on “TIFF 2018, An interview with filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald”

The 2018 Toronto International Film Festival is just around the corner with hundreds of features, short films and documentaries from around the world.

TIFF also has virtual reality experiences, conferences, presentations by legendary directors and even a few parties beginning Sept. 6 and running through Sept. 16.

This “festival of festivals” began in 1976 and has grown to be one of the premiere festivals in the world as both seasoned filmmakers and up-and-comers walk the red carpet and wait for the audience’s reactions to their creations.

Thom Firzgerald’s newest film, “Splinters,” will make its world debut at TIFF, and I had a chance to talk with the award-winning filmmaker about the film, inspired by the play of the same name by Lee-Anne Poole.

Set in a small farming community in Nova Scotia, Belle (Sophia Banzhaf) attempts to find peace with the loss of her father and to rectify and repair her relationship with her mother, who finds difficulty in accepting her sexual identity. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt drama, capturing the love of family and self as it explores the complexities of life.

Fitzgerald shared his thoughts about his characters and creating this timeless and relevant film.

To read the interview in its entirety go to
THE DAILY JOURNAL

McKenzie Chinn, Chicago filmmaker talks about her newest film “Olympia”

August 16th, 2018 Posted by Interviews, News 0 thoughts on “McKenzie Chinn, Chicago filmmaker talks about her newest film “Olympia””

Chicago area commercial actress and filmmaker McKenzie Chinn, creates an undeniably compelling story with her first feature film “Olympia” from Cow Lamp Films. Chinn’s tale, inspired by her own question of what it means to make the transition into true adulthood, takes us on a journey of self-discovery with the main character of Olympia who is dealing with a dying mother, a loving and committed boyfriend, and making momentous decisions. Chinn’s vividly centered artistry shines through her layered characters, integrating graphic art and insightful humor as we are drawn into the character and struggle of Olympia.  We laugh as we identify with her and feel the pain of walking in her shoes while she makes her own unique journey through life. 

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Chinn, a vibrant young woman from Baltimore who moved to the Windy City in 2008 to attend DePaul University’s School of Theater to study acting. She lit up the small coffee shop as her energy and smile were wonderfully infectious. We openly discussed her background, the genesis of “Olympia,” and what it means to be not just female in the world of filmmaking, but also a woman of color. By the end of the interview, Chinn seemed wise beyond her years and from my perspective, she is now standing firmly in the land of adulthood.

Pamela Powell (PP): Tell me about the musical group you perform with.

McKenzie Chinn (MC): We fuse lyrical narrative hip hop styles of poetry with music and sound and perform that…We tend to write a lot about identity … We spend a lot of time talking about what it means to be a black person in the world today, what it means to be a woman in the world today, and what it’s like to be a part of our generation. I’m really interested in … the power of our own personal narratives and also how powerful it is when you see your narrative reflected outside of you. So when you see your narrative in the media, when you see someone who’s similar to you in a film or on TV, it’s validating in a way that’s really critical.

PP: Do you think things are truly changing quickly thanks to the #MeToo movement or do you think things began changing prior to that?

MC: I think a little bit of both. I think the way that we get to tell our stories is changing very rapidly and the ways in which we get to tell them differently, that has been precipitated by the #MeToo movement. For instance, in the early [2000’s], we had “Sex in the City” which was fun and great and spoke to a lot of people, but that show was very limited in its scope; limited in how we got to think of ourselves as women in the world. Now we have shows like “Broad City” and platforms like “2 Dope Queens” [and] I feel like we are getting to encompass more of ourselves, we’re able to be more faceted and more nuanced and way less apologetic about how we present. I think the attitude about it is deal with it. That’s not my problem any more, that’s your problem. It’s incredibly empowering. I think [these shows] really changed how women get to talk about themselves and how we get to encompass our fuller selves.

PP: When did you first start telling stories?

MC: I’ve always been a story teller ever since I can remember. One of the things I loved doing when other kids would play outside, I would just be writing little stories. One of the first stories I ever wrote, I’ll never forget it, … was about a unicorn that got kidnapped. And my sister did the illustrations.

PP: Do you still have the book?

MC: No. I wish I still did. I can still see my sister’s illustrations and we took it very seriously. For the longest time, I thought I was going to be a writer. I was going to study journalism, but then got pulled in the direction of theater which I found incredibly exciting and intoxicating. Then I went to graduate school and that was incredibly consuming. So writing as just an activity that got back-burnered in a really major way. But when I finished school in 2011, I finished unemployed [and] we were still recovering from the recession. I have all this time and all this expressive energy and so I started writing [again].

PP: That brings us to your film “Olympia.”

MC: I got a fellowship that funded a large part of OLYMPIA. It’s called the Annenberg Artist Fellowship and a component … of that fellowship is having an artist mentor and [Tarell Alvin MCCraney- “Moonlight” ] was my artist mentor. It’s so exciting to be in a moment where people get to encompass fuller selves, not just stereotypes and not just best friends, but to actually have a voice and have a story in an arc … regardless of where they come from… 

PP: That’s amazing that this was your first project and it was through DePaul!

MC: This was my first foray into filmmaking. I think I only take really big steps. [laughs] Like Burnham, one of the architects of Chicago said ‘Make no small plans,’ and I think that’s just a part of my DNA as an artist. It never even occurred to me to make a short. It was a huge learning curve, but I was smart enough to surround myself with people who I knew had much more experience and could help the vision come to life.

PP: Tell me about writing “Olympia.”

MC: I wrote OLYMPIA shortly after turning 30 which felt like a major milestone in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I feel like folks in my generation, the millennial generation, that we don’t have the same milestones that our parents had to move us into adulthood. You know, my parents’ generation, sometime in their twenties, maybe their thirties, they got married, started a career that they would have for thirty or forty years, got a house,  [and] had children.  These are very recognizable mile markers that confer adulthood. I felt like by the time people in my generation got to those same points, the rule book had completely changed… The economy has changed and what we’re able to do has changed. If those things that were mile markers aren’t really the same anymore then what does it mean to be an adult? I found myself turning 30 and feeling like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished what I should have by this age and I should have a much better handle on life. I should have a 401k and all these things I really have not done much thinking about.’ … Olympia is trying to figure out her career. She’s in this relationship that has gone really well but that she doesn’t necessarily feel like she owed anything to in terms of like putting anything into stone and her mother is ill. All of these things are coming to a head. It’s forcing her to make a solid choice and go in a specific direction. I think there are variables, but she’s just never had to choose or has felt like it was important to choose until now.

PP: In the film, Olympia is very connected with her mother who is dying. Can you explore this topic a little further from a personal standpoint?

MC: While this story is not autobiographical, I definitely pull from my own sense of what’s important and what resonates for me. One of my most cherished relationships is with my mom and fortunately she’s still with me. I think it would be so incredibly disorienting to me to not have that figure in my life… I remember feeling like that for me would be the breaking point. You have to make a choice now because you don’t have this thing you can lean on, you don’t have an escape hatch. It’s you now. For me that’s adulthood.

PP: I loved the Chicago drone shots and graphic art!

MC: The Drone shots were Greg Dixon. He was dead set on having those kind of shots. The animation was his idea [too]. It’s collaborative…lifts it to a level that you never imagined. It changed the whole tenor and tone.
PP: Tell me about your cast.

MC: As a person of color, it was just very important to me that the story be … around other people of color. That was very intentional. I think so many times when you’re a person of color in media, you get asked to lean into a stereotype or the tired type of idea like a maid.  Or how many times have I auditioned to be a slave? I’m just over it. It felt really good to write and perform in a story that, yes, I’m fully black, all the time … I’m just a person living my life. You don’t have to divorce those things. They can both be true. And that every single thing doesn’t have to revolve around oppression and marginalization.

PP: To be honest, I didn’t even realize that everyone was a person of color in the film.
 
MC: Isn’t that great that we’re in that place now? I think so many times we see movies where the cast is mostly black or people of color and people write it off as a black movie. No, actually it’s just a movie. It’s really so heartwarming to hear you say that!

Check back to find out where you can see this film!

Author Lisa Iannucci discusses her newest television, film, and travel guide

July 14th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Author Lisa Iannucci discusses her newest television, film, and travel guide”

Prolific author Lisa Iannucci has taken her love of film, television, and travel and combined them to create an entertainment guide like no other.  “On Location: A Film and TV Lover’s Travel Guide,” released in May, 2018, gives readers an opportunity to not find unusual locations across the U.S. where films have been made, but to also participate in the experiences of the show or film.  I had a chance to talk with Iannucci recently about creating this literary gem. 

Born and raised in Yonkers, N.Y., Iannucci lost her father at a very young age.  Her mother bought her a little black and white television set in which she found comfort and respite.  She shared, “If anything was going on, I would go in my room, shut the door, and watch a movie or a television show.”  Her love of this medium as well as a passion for writing began around the same time, and from that point, she knew what she wanted to do in life. 

Iannucci attended college for screenwriting and then worked for a magazine which was a subsidiary of CBS.  She then married and had three children.  Tragically, she lost her husband, creating a new path for herself and her children.  Iannucci began freelance writing and as her kids got older, she began to travel more.  “Every trip that we did, I tied it into something film and TV related.”  This was the spark to create a niche travel concept leading to her website The Virgin Traveler

Iannucci chuckled as she shared that she gets a few odd looks about the title of her site.  However, her outlook on traveling supports this unique title. In her younger years, she didn’t travel as much as she wanted.  Now she sees things on her own and feels that she is “…doing things all over for the first time.  There are a lot of people out there who don’t really have a chance to travel till later in life…” which is why she wrote “On Location.”  She continued, “It’s ok to start no matter when you’re starting … Just do it.  It’s never too late…”

Iannucci’s book highlights each and every state in the United States, some states obviously having more information than others, but all 50 are covered.  She didn’t want her book to be an encyclopedia of film or television scene locations, though.  There needs to be something interactive to do at that particular location whether it’s a museum, an annual convention, or even a restaurant, you need to experience what the film featured.  For example, Iannucci fondly recalled a BBQ restaurant in the final scene of “Top Gun,” located in California where you can dine and see the piano or purchase memorabilia from the film. 

Statue Alerts are also a part of Iannucci’s book.  Her recent trip to Chicago with her daughter shocked her as they strolled along Navy Pier only to bump into a bronze sculpture of Bob Newhart.  “I literally geeked out when I saw that! … They had the bronze couch next to him and I sat on the couch and pretended to be a patient.”  She also loved being a part of the new Saturday Night Live exhibit in Chicago, sitting on the set of Weekend Update and “chatting” with Jimmy Fallon about her book. 

Photo Credit: Samantha Brinkley

I asked Iannucci what her top three places were in the book and without hesitation she named Jamestown, N.Y., which coincidentally happens to be my hometown!  Her reasoning is easy:  Lucille Ball.  Having attended Lucy Fest which occurs each August, Iannucci laughed aloud as she recalled making a Vitameatavegamin commercial and then stomping grapes.  “The lady next to me threw grapes at me!”  She also shared that this August, Jamestown will be opening the National Comedy Center which will “house the whole history of comedy” and the SNL originators (Aykroyd, Morris, Newman, & Zweibel) along with Amy Schumer will all be on hand to cut the proverbial ribbon.  Iannucci and I then laughed about the debacle of the “old Lucy” versus the “new Lucy” statues in town.

Iannucci immediately continued with her next two choices; San Francisco for the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Roxbury Motel located in the Catskills not far from her current residence in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.  Her love of film history and the behind the scenes information makes the Disney Museum a favorite for her and the creative film and television themed rooms at the Roxbury plunges you into your favorite worlds from Star Trek and Star Wars to the Adams Family where, as she said, “…everywhere you look, no pun intended, there was something creepy and kooky!”

Iannucci’s love of all things in film and television naturally lead to the production of a podcast as well as a newsletter to keep fans up to date.  Reel Travels recently featured an interview with Joanna Wilson who spoke about “A Christmas Story.”  With each podcast, Iannucci, with all of her celebrity contacts, also features a “Celebrity Minute”  where a celebrity shares their favorite location from a movie or show…not from their own, of course!

Iannucci’s book, published by Globe Pequot Press, can be found at Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon, but signed copies can be purchased at Oblong Bookstore in Rhinebeck, NY.  Listen to her podcast for great interviews at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/reeltravels and subscribe to her newsletter for up the moment information about all things travel, TV, and film.

INDISTRY The New Digital Wave of the Future

July 11th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “INDISTRY The New Digital Wave of the Future”

If you think there’s no true innovative advances left in the world to make, then you haven’t been introduced to INDISTRY MEDIA and its co-founders Erroll Angara and Mary Landaverde.  I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to these energetic and driven sisters and it is now my pleasure to introduce them to you.  

In October, 2017, Landaverde and Angara began to pave a new road in the world of technology and consumerism that just might be the next global marketplace.  This new frontier, as CEO Landaverde described to me during one of the company’s recent events partnering with Virgin Hotel in Chicago, is an amalgam of Netflix, Facebook, and Amazon where the consumer interacts with their platform.  Landaverde said,  “[INDISTRY] was about how we get people engaged with the content.  How do we make them not a passive viewer, but an active one.”

To read the article in its entirety, go to Fete Lifestyle Magazine

SIZZLING INDEPENDENT SUMMER MOVIES

May 18th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “SIZZLING INDEPENDENT SUMMER MOVIES”

(From the May, 2018 issue of Fete Lifestyle Magazine)

Summertime and the living is easy.  I can hear the rich voice of Ella Fitzgerald in my head now, but what’s not easy is finding great films to see this summer.  Big blockbusters take over the screens, edging out the independent little guys which, in my mind, are more worth your hard-earned dollar.  Traveling to film festival across the country, I’m able to easily find and share with you the films that will make your summer movie going experience sizzle. (All films featured open after May 18)

MAY:

Spotlight:  

“The Seagull” is based on Chekov’s play of the same name, but don’t let that scare you away.  Annette Bening stars in this film about an aging actress, unrequited love, love triangles, and family.  This elegant, fast-paced comedy draws you back in time, witnessing the stages of life and love.  It’s an all-star cast with stellar performances from Saoirse Ronan, Elizabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy, Corey Stoll, Billy Howle, and Mare Winningham.

Also playing:

“On Chesil Beach” stars Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle as a newlywed couple in 1962 England, struggling with an awkward wedding night.

“First Reformed” gives Ethan Hawke a dramatic role like no other as a struggling pastor wrestling with a death of his son and an environmental activist.

“Terminal” stars Margot Robbie, Mike Myers, and Simon Pegg in this sinister, twisted, and murderous tale motivated by revenge.

“Book Club” gives 50 Shades of Grey a new look through the lens of four life-long friends during their book club discussion.  Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Mary Steenburgen and Candice Bergen star. 

“The Gospel According to Andre” documents the life of fashion designer Andre Leon Talle.

To read the article in its entirety, go to FETE LIFESTYLE MAGAZINE

Ebertfest 2018: 20th Anniversary

April 4th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Ebertfest 2018: 20th Anniversary”

Ebertfest, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, was started by the world-renowned movie critic Roger Ebert to celebrate films that didn’t receive the recognition they deserved during their original runs: “The festival gives these films and their filmmakers a well-deserved second look.”

Open to the public, this five-day event now programmed by Roger’s widow, Chaz, and festival director Nate Kohn, keeps in mind what Roger would have wanted, following an established criteria for selection. Each film is followed by an in-depth discussion with actors, directors, critics and, of course, the audience.

To read the entire article, published April 4, 2018, go to

THE DAILY JOURNAL

#Day4Empathy

Chicago filmmaker Michael Glover Smith looks to Seed & Spark for his next movie “Rendezvous in Chicago”

March 28th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Chicago filmmaker Michael Glover Smith looks to Seed & Spark for his next movie “Rendezvous in Chicago””

Michael Glover Smith picks up his proverbial pen to culminate his trilogy of relationship films with “Rendezvous In Chicago.”  Reuniting a few familiar faces from his first two endeavors, “Cool Apocalypse” and “Mercury in Retrograde,” Smith’s newest film is comprised of three unrelated vignettes, telling, as he said, “the story of a single relationship.”  But don’t worry…if you haven’t seen his first two creations, it’s not a prerequisite, although you’re missing out on two wonderful films!

Smith had a chance to talk with me about making “Rendezvous in Chicago,”  addressing key points such as funding, the Inclusion Rider, his plans for shooting, and the talented cast with whom he has, in many cases, developed “…a kind of short hand on set.”

Independent filmmaking always has its challenges, but first and foremost, funding is  the most difficult.  Smith said, “‘Cool Apocalypse’ was made for very little money and I raised it all by crowdfunding.  ‘Mercury in Retrograde’ had a considerably higher budget and was financed through equity investors.  ‘Rendevous’ is a combination of the two approaches: we’ve raised some money through investors and are using Seed & Spark, a great crowdfunding platform designed specifically for filmmakers, to raise the rest of the money we need.”

Smith is thrilled to be reunited with Nina Ganet (“Cool Apocalpyse” “Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party”) recognizing that she was just 22 years old when they first worked together.  Now, four years later, “…she has a lot more acting experience and life experience”  which will allow Ganet’s portrayal of “Julie” to bring, as Smith stated, “…a lot of the changes that have occured in her own life to the character.”  Smith has also worked with Kevin Wehby (“Cool Apocalypse,” “Mercury in Retrograde”) and Shane Simmons (“Mercury in Retrograde”) and is looking forward to working with Clare Cooney, Rashaad Hall, and Matt Sherbach (“Chicago P.D.”), describing them as “brilliant actors.”

As a seasoned writer and director, Smith is not at all daunted by the filming process.  He said, “Honestly, I think the actual shooting is going to be fun and easy.  We have a great cast and crew and I anticipate it being a summer camp-type atmosphere.”  Smith is cognizant of the need to give women opportunities in the world of filmmaking and has the innovative Layne Marie Williams as Assistant Director and sole producer.  Williams, founder of Women of the Now, will be bringing in Armani Barron as Production Manager and Hannah Butler as the Script Supervisor.  Smith has already announced Christine Sciortino as Hair & Makeup Stylist and Haley McCormick as the Art Director and Costume Designer.   Additionally, Smith anticipates hiring women as production assistants and as part of his camera crew.  Smith excitedly said, “This means more than half our crew will be women.  I’m a fan of the Inclusion Rider!”

With so many wheels already in motion, Smith’s only reservations come  in the form of how to fund “Rendezvous in Chicago.”  “The hardest part will be raising the money in advance.”  With lightness and a certain encouraging tone, Smith said, “…most campaigns are funded through the accumulation of many small donations.  Even $25 can help a lot!”

Interestingly, in a typical 30-day campaign to fully fund a film, the successful projects are 1/3 funded in the first three days.  Smith is hoping for a “…strong start right out of the gate.”  Contributing in other ways is also very helpful to independent projects such as “Rendezvous in Chicago.”  Sharing a link on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is also greatly appreciated.

For links to contribute, go to Seed & Spark

Female directors featured at CEUFF down from last year

March 12th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Female directors featured at CEUFF down from last year”

Hosted by the Gene Siskel Film Center, the month-long Chicago European Union Film Festival (CEUFF) will feature 9 films directed by women (9 out of 61 = ~ 14.8 percent, down from last year’s record high of 25 percent). The festival is celebrating its 21st year year, beginning March 9 through April 5.

Dramatic narratives are the stories women are telling most at this festival, ranging from period pieces such as Barbara Albert’s moralistic and psychological period film Mademoiselle Paradis to Elina Psykou’s powerful current-day tale of Oedipus.  Tonie Marshall puts the spotlight on games women (have to) play when trying to compete and win in the corporate boardroom in the French film Number One, and Marleen Jonkman’s Messi and Maud captures the societal pressures of motherhood and the freedom of a road trip through Chile.

To read the article in its entirety, go to:

FF2 Media Female directors featured at CEUFF down from last year

Video Wrap from “Hollywood on State” via Reel Chicago

March 7th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Video Wrap from “Hollywood on State” via Reel Chicago”

There were a few additions to the Hollywood on State Oscar night viewing party at the Gene Siskel Film Center last night: I ventured into the celebration with staff writer Joey Filer, who wielded a camera and microphone to capture the action for a thrilling video.  Watch the video below and go to www.reelchicago.com for the full story!

And the winners (might be) …Oscar Predictions 2018

March 4th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “And the winners (might be) …Oscar Predictions 2018”

The Oscar winners will soon be known, but until the curtain draws to a close, RHR has her predictions (and hopes) for the talented recipients of   that little gold statue.  Without further ado, here they are with predicted winners in bold and RHR’s hopefuls with an asterisk *

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES

TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET*

Call Me by Your Name

DANIEL DAY-LEWIS

Phantom Thread

DANIEL KALUUYA

Get Out

GARY OLDMAN

Darkest Hour

DENZEL WASHINGTON

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

WILLEM DAFOE

The Florida Project

WOODY HARRELSON

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

RICHARD JENKINS

The Shape of Water

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER*

All the Money in the World

SAM ROCKWELL

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES

SALLY HAWKINS*

The Shape of Water

FRANCES MCDORMAND

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

MARGOT ROBBIE

I, Tonya

SAOIRSE RONAN

Lady Bird

MERYL STREEP

The Post

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

MARY J. BLIGE

Mudbound

ALLISON JANNEY*

I, Tonya

LESLEY MANVILLE

Phantom Thread

LAURIE METCALF

Lady Bird

OCTAVIA SPENCER

The Shape of Water

 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

NOMINEES

THE BOSS BABY

Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito

THE BREADWINNER

Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo

COCO*

Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson

FERDINAND

Carlos Saldanha and Lori Forte

LOVING VINCENT

Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan Mactaggart

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY

NOMINEES

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Roger A. Deakins

DARKEST HOUR

Bruno Delbonnel

DUNKIRK

Hoyte van Hoytema

MUDBOUND

Rachel Morrison

THE SHAPE OF WATER*

Dan Laustsen

 

COSTUME DESIGN

NOMINEES

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST*

Jacqueline Durran

DARKEST HOUR

Jacqueline Durran

PHANTOM THREAD

Mark Bridges

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Luis Sequeira

VICTORIA & ABDUL

Consolata Boyle

 

DIRECTING

NOMINEES

DUNKIRK

Christopher Nolan

GET OUT

Jordan Peele

LADY BIRD

Greta Gerwig

PHANTOM THREAD

Paul Thomas Anderson

THE SHAPE OF WATER*

Guillermo del Toro

 

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

NOMINEES

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL

Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman

FACES PLACES*

Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda

ICARUS

Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan

LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen

STRONG ISLAND

Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes

 

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

NOMINEES

EDITH+EDDIE*

Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright

HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405

Frank Stiefel

HEROIN(E)

Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon

KNIFE SKILLS

Thomas Lennon

TRAFFIC STOP

Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

 

FILM EDITING

NOMINEES

BABY DRIVER*

Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos

DUNKIRK

Lee Smith

I, TONYA

Tatiana S. Riegel

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Sidney Wolinsky

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Jon Gregory

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

NOMINEES

A FANTASTIC WOMAN

Chile

THE INSULT

Lebanon

LOVELESS

Russia

ON BODY AND SOUL

Hungary

THE SQUARE*

Sweden

 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

NOMINEES

DARKEST HOUR

Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick

VICTORIA & ABDUL

Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

WONDER*

Arjen Tuiten

 

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

NOMINEES

DUNKIRK

Hans Zimmer

PHANTOM THREAD*

Jonny Greenwood

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Alexandre Desplat

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

John Williams

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Carter Burwell

 

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

NOMINEES

MIGHTY RIVER

from Mudbound; Music and Lyric by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson

MYSTERY OF LOVE

from Call Me by Your Name; Music and Lyric by Sufjan Stevens

REMEMBER ME*

from Coco; Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

STAND UP FOR SOMETHING

from Marshall; Music by Diane Warren; Lyric by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren

THIS IS ME

from The Greatest Showman; Music and Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

 

BEST PICTURE

NOMINEES

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges and Marco Morabito, Producers

DARKEST HOUR

Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten and Douglas Urbanski, Producers

DUNKIRK

Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers

GET OUT

Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr. and Jordan Peele, Producers

LADY BIRD

Scott Rudin, Eli Bush and Evelyn O’Neill, Producers

PHANTOM THREAD

JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison and Daniel Lupi, Producers

THE POST

Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers

THE SHAPE OF WATER*

Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale, Producers

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers

 

PRODUCTION DESIGN

NOMINEES

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola

DARKEST HOUR

Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

DUNKIRK

Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis

THE SHAPE OF WATER*

Production Design: Paul Denham Austerberry; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin

 

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

NOMINEES

DEAR BASKETBALL

Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant

GARDEN PARTY

Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon

LOU*

Dave Mullins and Dana Murray

NEGATIVE SPACE

Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata

REVOLTING RHYMES

Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

 

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

NOMINEES

DEKALB ELEMENTARY

Reed Van Dyk

THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK

Derin Seale and Josh Lawson

MY NEPHEW EMMETT

Kevin Wilson, Jr.

THE SILENT CHILD*

Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton

WATU WOTE/ALL OF US

Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen

 

SOUND EDITING

NOMINEES

BABY DRIVER*

Julian Slater

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Mark Mangini and Theo Green

DUNKIRK

Richard King and Alex Gibson

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce

 

SOUND MIXING

NOMINEES

BABY DRIVER*

Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis

BLADE RUNNER 2049

Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth

DUNKIRK

Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo and Mark Weingarten

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson

 

VISUAL EFFECTS

NOMINEES

BLADE RUNNER 2049

John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES*

Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist

 

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Screenplay by James Ivory

THE DISASTER ARTIST

Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

LOGAN

Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold

MOLLY’S GAME

Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin

MUDBOUND*

Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

 

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

THE BIG SICK

Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

GET OUT

Written by Jordan Peele

LADY BIRD

Written by Greta Gerwig

THE SHAPE OF WATER*

Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; Story by Guillermo del Toro

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

The Gene Siskel Film Center’s “Hollywood on State: Where You’re the Star”

February 27th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “The Gene Siskel Film Center’s “Hollywood on State: Where You’re the Star””

The Gene Siskel Film Center will once again hosts its annual Oscar viewing party — “Hollywood on State: Where You’re the Star” — on Sunday, March 4.

This star-studded extravaganza, sponsored by Southwest Airlines, BMO Harris Bank, and The Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Foundation, gives participants an opportunity to watch the 90th Academy Awards show, live via telecast, in one of the newly renovated theaters as well as walk the red carpet while photogs capture the moment.

To read the article in its entirety, check out the link below:

Best seats in town: Siskel Center Oscar Viewing Party

Gene Siskel Film Center Oscar Panel Discussion: FF2 Media represented by Pamela Powell

February 1st, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Gene Siskel Film Center Oscar Panel Discussion: FF2 Media represented by Pamela Powell”

Published by FF2 Media, Author Stephanie A. Taylor

Contributor Pamela Powell represented FF2 Media at the Oscars Nominations Panel hosted by the Gene Siskel Film Center. Powell discusses her Oscars predictions and shared her thoughts about Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele as they make history by being the fifth woman and the fifth Black director to be nominated for Best Director.

Stephanie A. Taylor (SAT): How was experience with being the only female on the panel?

Pamela Powell (PP): It’s a wonderful group of fellow critics from Chicago. I have the utmost respect for their positions in the film criticism community. It’s a little overwhelming, at times, to be the only woman and I certainly do have a different viewpoint on film. How I perceive them, how I interpret them, an overall sense of filmmaking and the overall message the film has.

SAT: Were you comfortable?

To read the article in its entirety, go to

www.ff2media.com

2018 Slamdance Film Festival Highlights: An Exceptional Year

January 27th, 2018 Posted by News, Review 0 thoughts on “2018 Slamdance Film Festival Highlights: An Exceptional Year”

Since 1995, the Slamdance Film Festival has taken place simultaneously with the Sundance Film Festival in the same mountain ski town of Park City, Utah.  The festival, began “…when a group of cheerful, subversive filmmakers weren’t accepted into the Sundance Film Festival [and were] unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer…”  Since that time, the festival has grown exponentially, giving independent and innovative films a chance they may not have otherwise been given.  The fest prides itself on being “By Filmmakers For Filmmakers.”

The 24th annual festival has now come to a close with the winners having been announced.  “Rock Steady Row” won for Best Narrative Feature and Audience Award while “Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End” won for Best Documentary Feature.  These two films are still on my list to screen, but the winners from the several films I did see are:

PICK OF THE LITTER:

Dana Nachman and Tom Hardy, Jr., are back at Slamdance after a three year hiatus.  Their first documentary feature film that screened at the fest was the heartwarming “Batkid Begins,” a story about a child whose Make A Wish choice brings the entire city of San Francisco together to create a day of pure joy for a young boy.  Now the dynamic duo of Nachman and Hardy give us “Pick of the Litter,” another heartwarming yet educational film about the journey of 5 labrador retriever puppies born to attempt to become a seeing eye guide dog for the blind. 

The film is at once captivating (of course, they’re adorable little fur balls), but it is also thrilling as we see the love and heartbreak that occurs with the temporary owners who give these little pups their start in training.  Following them from home to home, interviewing the possible candidates about receiving a dog, we connect with the people and the animals, rooting for them all, but knowing, like people, they are all different.

This 20 month journey will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face as you watch this horse race of dogs attempting to cross that finish line of helping a blind individual become more independent.  Will it be Phil? Potomac? Primrose? Patriot or Poppet?  Check out the film, grab some tissues, and snuggle with your own little buddy as you learn and love what canines can do for their humans.

QUEST:

Becoming aware of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) thanks to James Redford’s film “Resilience,” allowed me to see the importance of  Santiago Rizzo’s  film “Quest” as more than just a wonderful, sweet story about a teacher going above and beyond for a child because he cared.  The film depicts the real life story of Tim Moellering, a teacher who was that one stable adult in a young child’s life whose home life consisted of an abusive step father, an absentee mother, and an environment filled with violence.

This is Rizzo’s directorial debut and also co-writing the story based on his life and Moellering’s.  Dash Mihok (“Ray Donovan”) embodies the look, heart, and “humility” as Rizzo described him to become Moellering.  Other recognizable faces include Lou Diamond Phillips and Lakeith Stanfield as they add their talent to an important story about the need to help a child who is struggling.  The young Greg Kasyan shines in the role depicting a boy who is pulled in different and dangerous directions yet yearning for the chance to succeed in a positive way.  The immediate and genuine connection between Mills (Kasyan) and Moellering (Mihok) evokes a sincere understanding of what it takes to be a teacher and the importance of their role in our children’s lives. 

“Quest” allows us to see that Moellering was an exception to the rule.  He made a difference in one boy’s life and most certainly many more.  We need more teachers willing to step up and into the troubled lives of our youth.  One teacher can and did make a difference.  “Quest” is a film every teacher should see.

COMPANY TOWN:

Directors Natalie Kottke and Erica Sardarian take us to the little southern town of Crossett, Arkansas where the big paper production company Georgia-Pacific resides, employing much of the town and the neighboring ones as well.  The town has a more than remarkable cancer rate, many of these victims working in the mill and/or residing next to contaminated water sources. 

The directors investigate the town, interviewing residents, government officials, and environmental agencies, concluding the obvious.  But big business owned by none other than the Koch brothers, Charles and David, is like fighting Goliath.  The filmmakers lay out the pieces of information as they sometimes candidly film situations and conversations, allowing us to be privy to the discovery, devastation, and frustration this town is experiencing. 

“Company Town” is just one example of how big business takes precedence over the every day worker.  It’s yet another “Erin Brockovich” that we need to be aware of, but more importantly, we need to stand up for and protect one another .

HUMAN AFFAIRS:

Surrogacy is a hot topic right now and filmmaker Charlie Birns takes this topic and delves deeply into how it affects a young couple and the surrogate, Genevieve.  Starring Julie Sokolowski as Genevieve, we experience her emotions and confusion as she becomes a part of Lucinda (Kerry Condon) and Sidney’s (Dominic Fumusa) family.  The boundaries that are crossed  create connections and sever others, bringing us closer to what could possibly occur between a surrogate and the expectant couple.

Sokolowski’s raw performance is unparalleled as she exudes a depth of emotion in this role.  Condon and Fumusa find beautiful compatibility with one another and exquisitely portray the difficulties in a relationship as things begin to spiral out of control.  While surrogacy is the vehicle which drives the plot, the film is ultimately about our relationship with one another and how our choices affect us.

Beautifully shot with an ending that is more than satisfying, “Human Affairs” is a brilliant depiction that exposes our innermost emotions in relationships.  This is Birns first feature film and given its depth and complexity, I certainly hope it’s not his last.

Check back for interviews with many of these exceptionally talented filmmakers!

Sundance: A Gamechanger for Women Making Films

January 15th, 2018 Posted by Film Festivals, News, Review 0 thoughts on “Sundance: A Gamechanger for Women Making Films”

The Sundance Film Festival, founded in 1981, opens on Jan. 18 in the quaint ski town of Park City, Utah.  The festival will run for 11 action-packed days giving filmmakers, artists, actors, and patrons a non-stop film-related extravaganza including screenings, panel discussions, interactive programming, and even music.  While locals may find it difficult to navigate the narrow mountain town streets on foot or by car, the town’s guests continue to find Sundance one of the premiere festivals in the world.  Why? and What makes this festival shine?

To read the rest of the article as it was published in the January 2018 edition of Fete Lifestyle Magazine, go to Fete Lifestyle Magazine

Women Standing Strong at the 75th Golden Globes

January 8th, 2018 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Women Standing Strong at the 75th Golden Globes”

The 75th Golden Globes, what many consider the most important indicator of Oscar, is now over, but will it predict what happens on March 4th?  Only time will tell.  What we do know is that women were the focus of the Golden Globes ceremony from Seth Meyers and his sometimes jarring jokes and his heartfelt words of encouragement to the remarkably powerful speeches from Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Moss.  The tides have turned and it is evident that not only Hollywood has changed, but our entire nation is looking at gender equality…for the first time in a long time.

Although there were no female directors nominated by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) this year, hopefully, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will be a bit more open to looking at front-runner female-lead films for these nominations.   The world of film was filled with amazing female-written and directed films that film critic organizations around the country have recognized.  Last night, the FHPA did award “Lady Bird,” directed by Greta Gerwig,  for the Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, and the star of this film, Saiorse Ronan  for Best Actress in this category as well, but unfortunately, this  outstanding film was snubbed for the Best Director.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was the big winner last night with 4 wins followed by 2 wins apiece for “The Shape of Water”and “Lady Bird.”  Allison Janney took home her award for playing Tonya Harding’s mom in “I, Tonya,” and both Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) and James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”) had the pleasure of accepting an award.

The films that were recognized last night and the nominations of all are certainly going to be on the Oscar list when the nominations are announced on Tuesday, Jan. 23rd, but given the strength and power of last night’s show, I believe we are going to see a few more women on the list.  Dee Rees, Greta Gerwig, Agnes Varda, Alice Birch, Petra Biondina Volpe, Patty Jenkins and many more have been the buzz of the town and this critic will be shocked and disappointed if we don’t see these women on that list.

“Keep Talking” At the Gene Siskel Film Center

January 7th, 2018 Posted by Interviews, News 0 thoughts on ““Keep Talking” At the Gene Siskel Film Center”

The multiple award-winning documentary KEEP TALKING is Chicagoan Karen Lynn Weinberg’s newest documentary film depicting the efforts of four Alaskan Native women fighting to save the endangered language Alutiiq. Less than 40 fluent speakers remain, placing a heavy burden on them to keep not only the language alive, but the culture and history that is an integral part of it as well. Within the film, we begin to understand the important role indigenous language plays in those seeking a sense of identity and the necessary bonds between the Alutiiq people.

I had an opportunity to talk with Weinberg about her informative and emotional film and how it has impacted her, the Alutiiq community, and other cultures around the world. Her insight and passion will at once inspire you to see the film and see the world in a different and more compassionate way.

The Indiana University graduate found her first passion for langauage in literature, particularly Shakespeare as his writing “…allowed me to personally experience the power of language to elevate and transform.” Weinberg also studied French, Spanish, and Italian, and even when she became a published author and documentary film editor, she found time to tutor English to adults when she could.

Weinberg’s teaching skills crossed over into film editing and Weinberg was invited by the Native Village of Afognak to Kodiak, Alaska to teach a one-week course. Her entire class was comprised of Kodiak Alutiiq as the group wanted to learn the necessary software to preserve their native language and their culture. Weinberg shared, “I was hooked and wanted to know more…At the time, I had wanted to try my hand at producing/directing a documentary, so I went Kari (a language activist) a proposal to take to their Elders, and they granted me see funding and permission to come film their first-ever Dig Afognak camp geared towards immersion.”

Weinberg felt her own background weighing on her as an outsider to this community. She was an outsider and says, “I mean, how many times have Indigenous people been misrepresented in the white media? I felt an enormous responsibility to get it right.” Working with the community, conducting feedback sessions, and finding translators to interpret hours of footage allowed Weinberg to immerse herself, gain the necessary funding, and most importantly, get it right.

“Keep Talking” is powerful, but the one aspect that really is quite emotional is Sadie’s story. She’s a struggling teen who seems to transform her personality and hope for her future when she is among her people, learning her native tongue, and embracing her roots and traditions. Finding and focusing on Sadie gives the viewer a true understanding of the need to not lose our culture. Weinberg shared that she and the film’s cinematographer, Nara Garber, were immediately drawn to her. “As I got to know her, I understood that she was in a tough place emotionally, much as I was at her age. At the same time, the language and Alutiiq dancing was a clear, bright spot in her life.” Weinberg continued, “While we absolutely had more people we were filming with and I wish all the storylines could have fit into this film, it was Sadie’s coming of age story that most clearly illustrated the power of culture to help and heal.”

The film’s impact upon the viewer is tremendous as it exhibits the historical tragedies that continue to effect the culture in negative ways. A reconnection to their beginnings seems to have a healing effect. Weinberg has found from viewers that “…language revitalization work helps to heal historical trauma.” She continued, “In a bigger sense, I hope that the film contributes to discussions of the need for governmental bodies to provide lasting support to programs like language revitalization: this support is sorely needed to help to heal some of the damage done by assimilationist policies practiced by the United States, Canada and countless other countries formed with colonization at their core.”

Weinberg passionately expressed that, “Making this film has me firmly convinced that modern society desperately needs a push towards interpersonal connection and communication, including strengthening people’s sense of identity with an awareness of their own ancestry and heritage.” Perhaps in looking forward, we all need to look backward and see where we began and hold on to our roots, cherish our elders’ and their knowledge, and learn about our ancestry, no matter where we began. It is obvious in “Keep Talking” that this Alutiiq culture is on a more positive path…one that would benefit us all in understanding one another and even ourselves.

In closing, I asked Weinberg what was her favorite word or expression. Her answer brings me to happy tears. She said, “Since I can’t spell or say my favorite word (which means ‘they always tease me’), I will leave you with ‘Tang’rciqamken’- I will see you later. It’s a substitute for goodbye. I love that there is no word for goodbye.” The film screened at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Friday, Jan. 5th for its grand re-opening and will screen again on Jan. 11. For more information about tickets, go to www.siskelfilmcenter.org/keeptalking

For more information about the film go to www.keeptalkingthefilm.com

 

RHR’s Top Picks of 2017

December 22nd, 2017 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “RHR’s Top Picks of 2017”

2017 has proven to be one of the most controversial and revelatory years in the history of the entertainment industry.  While the Harvey Weinsteins of the film world have been revealed, pulling away the curtain to expose the ugly truths about how men, for decades, have assaulted and harassed women in Hollywood, a healing process has begun for women in every environment.  Men are beginning to see how their actions, perhaps previously thought innocent, are actually hurtful.  There also seems to be the beginnings of comprehension by men of  the mental, emotional, and physical attacks women undergo on a daily basis.   Women are also standing together to speak up in the hopes of making a change for the future—our daughters’ futures and our own.  It’s just the beginning, but a very hopeful one.

2017 just might be the year that women, a minority in the film industry, are recognized for their talents in filmmaking.  As the number of women directors and writers really haven’t changed in the last 5 years, perhaps the voting bodies will begin to open their eyes to finally see the overlooked works of art that we have this year in movies.  2017 has given us a generous number of entertaining blockbusters and heartwarming gems, several of which were spearheaded by women.

It was difficult to choose just 10 top films as I could have easily chosen 30.  Some of these films are chilling dramas and others are light-hearted and whimsical films, but hopefully you’ll find a few that aren’t on the typical film critic’s list.  None of these films were chosen based on who wrote or directed them.  They were based on the tough criteria of, was it a good story told well…the words of Robert Redford still ring loudly and meaningfully to me.  If a woman wrote or directed one of my top films, then that’s just a great bonus for women!

BEST FEATURE FILMS OF 2017

  1. “The Shape of Water” (written and directed by Guillermo del Toro)
  2. “Maudie”  (written by Sherry White, directed by Aisling Walsh)
  3. “I, Tonya” (written by Steven Rogers, directed by Craig Gillespie)
  4. “All the Money in the World” (written by David Scarpa, novel by John Pearson, directed by Ridley Scott)
  5. “Lady Macbeth” (written by Alice Birch, based on the novel by Nikolai Leskov, directed by William Oldroyd)
  6. “Mudbound”  (written by Virgil Williams, Dee Rees, and Hillary Jordan (novel), directed by Dee Rees)
  7. “Lady Bird”  (written and directed by Greta Gerwig)
  8.  “The Post” (written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, directed by Steven Spielberg)
  9.  “Brad’s Status” (written and directed by Mike White)
  10. “The Hero” (written by Brett Haley and Marc Basch, directed by Brett Haley)

Honorable Mentions include: “Get Out,” “Wind River,” “Norman,” “Colossal,” “Molly’s Game,” “Call Me By Your Name,” “Wakefield,” “Beatriz at Dinner,” “Battle of the Sexes,” and  “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Detroit,” “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” and “Their Finest”

BEST FEATURE DOCUMENTARIES OF 2017

  1.  “Faces Places” (written and directed by JR and Agnes Varda)
  2.   “Tickling Giants”  (written and directed by Sara Taksler)
  3.   “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story”  (written and directed by Alexandra Dean)
  4.   “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution” (written and directed by James Redford)
  5.   “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” (written by Al Gore, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk)
  6.   “Step”  (directed by Amanda Lipitz)
  7.   “Take My Nose Please”  (directed by Joan Kron)
  8.   “Whose Streets”  (directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis)
  9.   “Miracle on 42nd Street”  (written by Joal Ryan and Steve Ryfle, directed by Alice Elliott)
  10.  “42 Grams” (directed by Jack C. Newell)

Honorable Mention:  “It’s Not Yet Dark” and “LA ’92”

INDEPENDENT GEMS

  1.  “The Lovers” (written and directed by Azazel Jacobs)
  2. “The Light of the Moon” (written and directed by Jessica M. Thompson)
  3.  “Walking Out” (Written by Alex Smith and Andrew J. Smith, short story by David Quammen, directed Alex Smith and Andrew J. Smith)
  4.   “D-Love” (written by Dave Rogers, directed Elena Beuca)
  5.   “Band Aid” (written and directed by Zoe Lister-Jones)
  6.   “The Big Sick” (written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, directed by Michael Showalter)

Check out the reviews of these films and the many interviews with the talent right here on Reel Honest Reviews!

 

 

CFCA Announces Winners

December 13th, 2017 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “CFCA Announces Winners”

 

The Chicago film Critics Association gathered last night to announce and celebrate the award winners from the amazing slate of films from 2017.  Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” was the big winner, taking home 4 wins after being nominated in 6 different categories.  The film received the coveted Best Picture Award along with Best Actress-Saiorse Ronan, Best Supporting Actress-Laurie Metcalf, and Most Promising Filmmaker-Greta Gerwig.

“Call Me By Your Name” was a close second with 3 wins:  Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor-Timothee Chalamet, and Most Promising Performer-Timothee Chalamet.

“Blade Runner 2049” won two awards, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction.

The remaining award winners are:

Best Director- Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”)

Best Supporting Actor- Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”)

Best Original Screenplay- Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)

Best Original Score-Johnny Greenwood (“The Phantom Thread”)

Best Editing- Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss (“Baby Driver”)

Best Foreign Film- “The Square”

Best Animated Feature-“Coco”

Best Documentary Feature-“Jane”

While the L.A. Film Critics Circle gave the Best Picture award to “Call Me By Your Name,” and both Chicago and N.Y. found “Lady Bird” deserving of that title, it will be interesting to see if  this is a predictor of what will happen on Oscar night.  Only time will tell!  Perhaps it is the beginning of women being recognized in the director’s chair after all!

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