Posts in News

Top Films of 2023

January 1st, 2024 Posted by News, Review 0 thoughts on “Top Films of 2023”

While there have been literally hundreds and hundreds of movies released in 2023, the huge blockbuster movies seem to quickly dissipate from my memory.  This year, as I waited for “the one that knocks my socks off,” I have found that it’s been a year of the more quiet and thought-provoking films and not the sock-removal films.  After scouring the releases and putting together a list of 14 movies I truly loved, I noticed a theme: Quietness and Introspection.  Is this a reflection of my age? Perhaps.  Or perhaps I’ve been doing this for so long, it takes a lot to impress and surprise me.  Whatever the case, here is my list of Top Films of 2023.

10:  “Somewhere in Queens”

Ray Romano co-writes and directs this insightful film about an average dad whose relationship with his son isn’t what he thought it was.  Watching him grow and push away, attempting to cut the apron strings from his parents, Jacob (Matthew ‘Sticks’ Russo) wants to pave his own path in life as he falls in love with a girl who isn’t exactly Mom (Laurie Metcalf) and Dad’s (Romano) first choice.  And with this comes the burden of a mother who is battling and recovering from breast cancer.  This is a story of and for any family and Romano, wearing three hats as writer, director and actor, balances and brings love and levity in the most human way possible to this story.  Family, loyalty, love, and self are all familiar topics as they are integrated artfully into this story that will capture you and your heart.

9.  “Anatomy of a Fall”

A young visually impaired boy is “witness” to his father’s death high in the mountains as his mother, Sandra (Sandra Huller), is accused of murder.  Fighting for her freedom as the truth is unveiled, details of their marriage are peeled away to reveal a very different story.  We easily walk in Sandra’s shoes as she attempts to protect and care for her son, especially as the state steps in to do the same.  It’s a tightrope act for Sandra as we want so badly to believe her, but we also question the reality of the situation.  The ending isn’t what you expect and may leave some dissatisfied, however, it also opens the door to conversation as to what actually took place.

8.  “The Boys in the Boat”

Sometimes you just need a story to uplift and inspire and George Clooney finds just the right tone to do so with “The Boys in the Boat” starring Joel Edgerton as the University of Washington Rowing Team’s coach and Callum Turner as the young man to carry the team.  While it might be a predictable story, it is based upon the true story from 1936 as the team fought not only to win against the ivy league schools, but to also be a part of the Berlin Olympics.  Great performances are key as well as characters we care about and Clooney delivers.

7.  “Blackberry”

Truth is always stranger (and more entertaining) than fiction and Matt Johnson’s “BlackBerry” proves it.  Starring Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, and Johnson who also co-writes, we are taken back in time to the era of the BlackBerry phone and how it began, rose to being a powerhouse only to plummet to its death.  The story is a crazy one and Johnson finds a way to create characters that are over-the-top yet believable while he embraces the humor in the ridiculousness of it all.  This big business movie is mesmerizing and engaging as you wait for the final scenes.  You really don’t know the ending!

6.  “Past Lives”

Celine Song writes and directs an international story that everyone over 20 can relate to.  It’s the “what ifs” of life.  And if we could turn back the hands of time would we?  Greta Lee stars as Nora, a young Asian woman whose family moved to the States when she was a child, leaving her best friend and crush Teo Yoo (Hae Sung) behind.  Their lives take drastically different routes, but the roads soon intersect to see how they have changed as well as stayed the same.  This is a beautifully quiet and introspective film filled with emotion as we watch Nora and Hae find solace with their current lives and choices.  Additionally, John Magaro’s performance as Nora’s husband placed in a very uncomfortable situation is one of brilliant subtleties that connects us more deeply to the story.  Once you see this film, you’ll need to find the space and time to reflect on your own life’s choices and where you turned left or right at the crossroads.

5.  “Story Ave”

This film took a good 20 minutes to hook me, but once it did, you couldn’t pull me away with a team of wild horses.  Co-written and directed by Aristotle Torres, we meet a young teen, Kadir (Asante Blackk) whose guilt and circumstances drive him to the leader of a gang in NYC, Skemes (Melvin Gregg).  Thrown into making a poor choice, he finds himself guided by Luis (Luis Guzman) whose own ghosts haunt his life as he attempts to make a positive impression upon Kadir.  Together, Luis and Kadir navigate this rocky time, leaning on one another and pushing away to find the right answers for themselves.  The ending left me breathless with tears streaming down my cheeks, completely satisfied with the gorgeous and meaningful film.

4.   “Nyad”

Yes, it’s true.  I’m turning 60 and this movie is all about this time period in one woman’s life: Diana Nyad played by Annette Bening.  Refusing to succumb to the notion that the best is all behind her, she vows to do what she failed at doing 3 decades earlier; swim from Havana, Cuba to the Florida Keys.  An incredible feat that no one had done before, Nyad trains and fails, but doesn’t give up.  Accompanied by her coach, Bonnie (Jodie Foster) and a small support team, we too become a part of her team as she swims endlessly, battling both Mother Nature and her creations as well as the nay-sayers.  Bening’s sublime performance is unparalleled as she becomes the irascible yet tenacious middle-aged woman with a vision.  Cinematically stunning, “Nyad” pulls you into the rocky waters so that you almost feel the waves crashing over you.  

3.  “Barbie”

Never would I have thought I would have loved (and I mean loved) a big budget movie about a Mattel doll even if I did have my very own Barbie and camper as a kid.  This is a larger than life story written by Greta Gerwig and hubby Noah Baumbach, tackling societal stereotypes, and gender issues as well as the inherent inequities.  “Barbie” becomes an emotionally loaded yet still very funny look at our world and the expectations for women who have to “do it all” or “have it all.”  Costuming and production design are stellar, but the deft direction, intuitive acting, and a deeply meaningful script that consumed me and had me crying at least twice are what make this one of my top movies of the year.

2.  “Flora and Son”

John Carney writes and directs (and creates original songs) in a story of a young mom, Flora (Eve Hewson) who isn’t going to get the Mother of the Year Award any time soon as her teenage son Max (Oren Kinlan) finds himself on the verge of incarceration in Ireland.  Looking to connect with her music-loving and -producing teen, Flora buys him a guitar only to have it land in her hands.  She then finds more than music lessons on-line from the California guitarist Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as the lessons become a form of therapy.  We begin to understand Flora, revealing what it’s really like to be a mom in her situation, as she attempts to do better.  The brutal honesty of motherhood and living life portrayed in this film is sometimes a gut-punch and at others a wake up to reality.  There’s nothing flashy in this story and that is to its credit.  It’s beautiful, sweet, honest, and emotionally raw.  I dare you not to love this film!

“American Fiction”
This is the movie of the year.  Cord Jefferson co-writes and directs the story of Thelonious Monk Ellison (Jeffrey Wright), an author who is struggling with his second book; the first wasn’t exactly on the best-sellers’ list.  Aghast at what is actually selling, particularly Sintara Golden’s (Issa Rae) book about being poor and Black — capitalizing on the stereotypical Black experience as she writes in that vernacular — Monk uses a pseudonym and writes his own Black experience novel, seen through the eyes of a convict.  You guessed it…it becomes a best-seller.  Disgusted by this popularity, Monk attempts to reckon his own reflection and how he perceives himself.  We also delve into Monk’s family as his sister Lisa (Tracee Ellis Ross) and brother Clifford (Sterling K. Brown), both with their own stories, wrestle with an aging mother (Leslie Uggams) who suffers from dementia.  If ever there was a movie that could open up the lines of communication to ask important questions about race and understanding, this is the one! With great performances and a complex script, this is a movie everyone should see.

Tied for 11th Place are:

“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”

“She Came to Me”


“The Promised Land”

Fall TV: What’s Worth Waiting For

September 12th, 2023 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Fall TV: What’s Worth Waiting For”

Fall is in the air as the school buses are beginning their morning and afternoon routes, the tinge of red outlines the tops of the maple tree leaves, and the days aren’t lasting quite as long. While is sad to see the summer end, it’s exciting to anticipate the 2023 Fall TV season. Here’s what’s on my list of things to look forward to:

1. Season 3 of “Only Murders in the Building” Episodes 1 and 2 are already streaming on Hulu. It’s a slow start and feels a bit stilted, but there’s so much more to come. “OMITB” has always delivered and I’m all in on betting it’ll rise to the occasion.

2. Season 5 (Part I) of “Virgin River” begins September 7, 2023. Fans of the series will be able to binge 10 episodes of the first part of this new season, but they’ll have to wait for answers to burning questions with Part II for the remaining 2 episodes on Thursday, November 30, 2023.

3. “Lessons in Chemistry” is an 8-part series adapted from the book of the same name. The Apple TV+ series stars Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott, a chemist turned cooking show star, and premieres Friday, October 13 with the remaining 7 episodes dropping each Friday through November.

4. Hooked on Fox’s “Animal Control” starring Joel McHale as the jaded former officer amidst a ragtag group of employees? Season 2 is slated to begin late in 2023…stay tuned for updates!

5. Oui Oui! Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” Season 4 is on its way. The exact release date is not yet known, but a holiday release looks promising. This upbeat soap opera style light-hearted drama finds its way on to my top series to look forward to.

6. “Abbott Elementary” had been set to premiere Season 3 in September, but sadly with the WGA strike we may not find out if Janine and Gregory get together or if Principal Coleman can keep her job as the Franklin Institute threatens her and the school’s future until well into 2024.

Director Gillian Greene on Comedy “Fanboy” and Finding Humor in Everyday Life

April 15th, 2019 Posted by News, Review 0 thoughts on “Director Gillian Greene on Comedy “Fanboy” and Finding Humor in Everyday Life”

Hollywood appears to be ground zero for #MeToo and #TimesUp which has opened the eyes of all and the doors for women, especially in creating director seats. While we still have a long way to go, one woman, Gillian Greene, who’s been a part of Hollywood her entire life, is seated comfortably in that director’s chair and released her short film “Fanboy” via Amazon on March 22. While the film was only meant to demonstrate her skills as a director to get work for feature films, Greene wanted to share this charming comedy about a South Carolina video store employee (Fran Kranz) who dreams of being in Sam Raimi’s sequel to “For Love of the Game” and tries his hand at the Hollywood scene.

The vivacious mother of five who’s husband is Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man”) and is the daughter of the beloved actor Lorne Greene (“Bonanza”) spoke with me recently about making “Fanboy,” her life, and what’s next. (Edited for length and clarity.)

To read the interview as it appears in the Monday, April 15, 2019 edition, go to CINEMA FEMME

4th DOC10 Film Festival is right around the corner

April 9th, 2019 Posted by News, Review 0 thoughts on “4th DOC10 Film Festival is right around the corner”

The Chicago Media Project’s Doc10 Film Festival is gearing up for its fourth year with 10 award-winning documentaries from other film festivals, such as the prestigious 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

The festival will take place April 11-14 in Lincoln Square at the Davis Theatre (4614 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago). It will showcase thought-provoking films, a VR-RV (Virtual Reality), special panel discussions and workshops as well as opening and closing night parties.

The films touch upon politics (“Knock Down The House,” “Mike Wallace is Here”) and our current immigration system (“The Infiltrators”) to environmental issues (“Anthropocene: The Human Epoch”) and religious beliefs (“Hail Satan?”) and more.

Grandmas get a new chance at love in new AARP web series

March 29th, 2019 Posted by Interviews, News 0 thoughts on “Grandmas get a new chance at love in new AARP web series”

Reality television finds a new twist with the digital series “Date My Grandma” now streaming on AARP’s YouTube channel. This adorable, positive and often-times funny reality dating show “celebrates love, family and companionship.”

The six episodes, now available to view, can be seen at

I recently spoke with Vice President and Executive Producer of AARP Studios Jeffrey Eagle, who shared the behind-the-scenes stories and his hopes for this show and more to come. (Edited for space and clarity.)

Pamela Powell (PP): How did you come up with this concept?

Jeffrey Eagle (JE): We’re always trying to look at ways to celebrate people and their lives in whatever life transition they’re in, but a keen focus on 50-plus [population]. AARP, in trying to speak to its 38 million members in terms of what they’re interested in, have long talked about companionship, relationships, social isolation, and we just thought what an interesting way to tap into a topic like dating. As we talk multiculturally, but also multigenerationally, how fun would it be to involve grandchildren?
To read the interview in its entirety as published in the March 28, 2019 edition of The Daily Journal, go to THE DAILY JOURNAL

An Interview with Stephen Merchant, “Fighting With My Family”

February 20th, 2019 Posted by Interviews, News 0 thoughts on “An Interview with Stephen Merchant, “Fighting With My Family””

“Fighting With My Family,” based on a true story written and directed by Stephen Merchant (“The Office”), is a humorous yet meaningful film about a wrestling family, the Knights, whose lives and dreams change as young Paige (Florence Pugh), gets the opportunity to become the next WWE champion.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson not only has a great part in the film, he is to thank for giving Merchant this seed of an idea. While the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Merchant was also in Chicago, where I spoke with him at length about creating the film.

Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Pamela Powell (PP): Congratulations on your Sundance premiere. First, tell me how you became aware of this story?

SM: It’s all because of The Rock. He was in the UK making “Fast and Furious 6.” He couldn’t sleep one night, and there it was… a documentary about this crazy family from Norwich, and because he’s from a wrestling world and a wrestling family, he related to it. I think somewhere along the line, he realized it had a ready-made, built-in Rocky underdog story that’s just waiting to become a movie. [He wanted someone with] British sensibility to write it because he knew it was a British family… so, he came to me.

PP: So, we can thank The Rock’s insomnia for this great story.

To read the interview in its entirety as it was published in The Daily Journal, Feb. 16, 2019, go to THE DAILY JOURNAL

The 2019 Slamdance Hot List

January 23rd, 2019 Posted by Film Festivals, News 0 thoughts on “The 2019 Slamdance Hot List”

The 2019 Slamdance Film Festival will open its doors at the top of Main St. in Park City, Utah at the Treasure Mountain Inn on Jan. 25 and run through Jan. 31st. This intimate, competitive, and ever-growing festival gives independent filmmakers and fans of creative films, many of which push the boundaries in both topic matter and style, a different lens with which to view them. And many of these films will be picked up for distribution and just might be the start for the next Christopher Nolan.

If you’re in Park City, this is a festival not to be missed and here are my top picks so far:

In the superficial world in which we live, looks determine not only how others perceive us, but even who we are. Co-written and directed by Alexandre Franchi, “Happy Face” tackles this subject, introducing us to a teenager, struggling with his mother’s diagnosis of cancer that will result in a resection of her face. Joining a patient support group for those who have congenital anomalies or resulting disfigurements from an accident, he disguises himself to fit in. This is an eye-opening look into our own reactions and perceptions of those who may not initially be physically perfect. With no make up, these real people eloquently tell their own stories in this fictional tale.

Mystery and intrigue are at their highest as the residents of a small town are distracted by a local basketball game. Only a switchboard operator and a radio DJ have an inkling that something is askew. Written by James Montague and Craig Dietrich, and directed by Andrew Patterson, the film stars Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowtitz in this “sci-fi adventure” film.

One fateful summer, Fiona and her cognitively impaired brother set a course that will slowly change their futures. Written by Anders Emblem and starring Amalie Ibsen Jensen and David Jakobsen, this Norwegian story promises to connect our own lives with theirs as it dissects family and individuality as it relates to responsibility.

Written and directed by Jennifer Alleyn the lines of filmmaking and reality are blurred to create a surreal story of love, loss and what drives us forward. With an experimental and sensual feel, the film finds a common thread, stitching themes together into one glorious tapestry of a story.

A crazy, fast-paced story about Margaret (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Daryl (Joshua Leonard) who attempt to solve the mystery of a missing friend. Their antics and issues of past love interests intersect, sometimes creating a roadblock in finding their friend. What they ultimately find creates even more surprises, many of which they might not be ready or able to handle.

The film is part real life and part re-enactment, promising to entertain and connect us with the residents in a village a world away in South Africa. Showing the power of film and filmmaking, Siyabonga Majola wants nothing more than to be in a movie and as luck would have it, one is being filmed nearby. What lengths will he go to in order to make his dreams come true? Interestingly, this film is also re-enacted by the very people who experienced what happened that fateful year.

If you thought Disco was dead, think again as “Dons of Disco” powers into Slamdance. This documentary is filled with comedy and music as it discovers the identity behind the artist Den Harrow. Part mystery, party history, director Jonathan Sutak will give audiences plenty to ponder during film and after the credits roll.

Following along the beat of music is “Memphis ’69.” The 4th annual Country Blues Festival took place in Memphis. It was an historic event and until recently, the color footage had not been located. Now, almost 50 years later, we see the talent of blues masters such as Sleepy John Estes and Nathan Beauregard and many more, in full color footage. These legends and the amalgam of people who loved them are restored and brought back to life thanks to this discovery.

Check out the full schedule of films which include shorts, features, documentaries and exclusive to Slamdance, “Anarchy Shorts.” Tickets are affordable and the venue is small and welcoming. SLAMDANCE SCHEDULE

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

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

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

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.


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

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:


**The Favourite

Runner-up: Roma


**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


**Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Runner-up: Toni Collette, Hereditary


**Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Runner-up: Viggo Mortensen, Green Book


**Olivia Colman, The Favourite

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


**Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

Runner-up: Thomasin McKenzie, Leave No Trace



Runner-up: Capernaum



Runner-Up: Shirkers



Runner-Up: The Favourite



**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


*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


**Viola Davis


Ellen Burstyn


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


**If Beale Street Could Talk


**Black Panther


**Jacki Weaver: Widows


**Black Panther


**Incredibles 2


**Eighth Grade


**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

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 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


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)



“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



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 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 *




Call Me by Your Name


Phantom Thread


Get Out


Darkest Hour


Roman J. Israel, Esq.





The Florida Project


Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


The Shape of Water


All the Money in the World


Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri





The Shape of Water


Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri


I, Tonya


Lady Bird


The Post






I, Tonya


Phantom Thread


Lady Bird


The Shape of Water





Tom McGrath and Ramsey Naito


Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo


Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson


Carlos Saldanha and Lori Forte


Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and Ivan Mactaggart





Roger A. Deakins


Bruno Delbonnel


Hoyte van Hoytema


Rachel Morrison


Dan Laustsen





Jacqueline Durran


Jacqueline Durran


Mark Bridges


Luis Sequeira


Consolata Boyle





Christopher Nolan


Jordan Peele


Greta Gerwig


Paul Thomas Anderson


Guillermo del Toro





Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman


Agnès Varda, JR and Rosalie Varda


Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan


Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Søren Steen Jespersen


Yance Ford and Joslyn Barnes





Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright


Frank Stiefel


Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon


Thomas Lennon


Kate Davis and David Heilbroner





Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos


Lee Smith


Tatiana S. Riegel


Sidney Wolinsky


Jon Gregory


















Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick


Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard


Arjen Tuiten





Hans Zimmer


Jonny Greenwood


Alexandre Desplat


John Williams


Carter Burwell





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


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


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


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


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





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


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


Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers


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


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


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


Amy Pascal, Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers


Guillermo del Toro and J. Miles Dale, Producers


Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers





Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer


Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Alessandra Querzola


Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer


Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis


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





Glen Keane and Kobe Bryant


Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon


Dave Mullins and Dana Murray


Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata


Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer





Reed Van Dyk


Derin Seale and Josh Lawson


Kevin Wilson, Jr.


Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton


Katja Benrath and Tobias Rosen





Julian Slater


Mark Mangini and Theo Green


Richard King and Alex Gibson


Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira


Matthew Wood and Ren Klyce





Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin and Mary H. Ellis


Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth


Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo and Mark Weingarten


Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier


David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Stuart Wilson





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


Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick


Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus


Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Neal Scanlan and Chris Corbould


Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist





Screenplay by James Ivory


Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber


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


Written for the screen by Aaron Sorkin


Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees





Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani


Written by Jordan Peele


Written by Greta Gerwig


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


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


Instagram With Pam


Know if you should go, subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required