Heistbox (popularly known as Dropbox) has now permanently altered the accounts of its original users. (See my post, “Dropbox and the Snake Oil Sales Model of Tech Firms,” June 12, 2015). I think I have removed or updated all of my original Heistbox links; please write or tweet if you click somewhere and cannot get to the review or feature you would like to read. Thank you.
Jun 30, 2018
Dr. Anita Hill was sexually harassed by a man who now sits on the U.S. Supreme Court. If you are a woman and old enough to remember the riveting 1991 testimony of the then 35 year-old law professor, you no doubt recall that the only great divide in this country during the Senate Committee confirmation hearing for Clarence Thomas was along gender lines. There was no question in any woman's mind of the veracity of Dr. Hill's testimony, only in the minds of about half of the senators who voted for confirmation. Clarence Thomas slipped by with one of the lowest margins ever recorded in confirmation votes for Supreme Court justices, 52-48.
One of the Democrats who voted for confirmation is still a senator, Richard Shelby (D, Alabama). We are well-rid of Joe Biden, who was especially hostile to Dr. Hill. While many of the most rebarbative and misogynist Republicans, such as Arlen Specter, are gone, Orrin Hatch (R, Utah) is not. He now serves as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate. If that is not frightening enough, every woman and every right-thinking man in this country, should be terrified by the fact that President Trump will be choosing nominees for the Supreme Court in the coming weeks.
Representation of Women in Journalism
I mention this history because we are now at another “Anita Hill moment” in the United States, one in which record numbers of women are running for public office, as they did after the Thomas confirmation. Many of them are women of color, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will soon occupy a Congressional seat for the 14th District of the great state of New York. While I find this encouraging, as an author and film critic, I feel the need to report that in my corner of the world, in film journalism, very little has changed despite all the rhetoric flying around about supporting women’s filmmaking.
Every day I get announcements of new women’s film programming at various venues, most recently, for the upcoming Toronto Film Festival. That’s terrific, but what I do not see is programmers reaching out to women filmmakers and critics to chair panels at these events. I rarely see women’s faces when I attend film festival events or filmmaker Q&As, even when they feature female filmmakers. In the audience at press screenings, most of us are white, and there is often only one female critic in a group of 30 men, so our voices are naturally drowned out. Programmers and curators need to pay attention to the ratio of women and men in press screenings, and on their panels. Start counting.
Apr 24, 2018
|Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-Muslim woman to become an American legislator. (Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)|
|A snapshot from Love, Gilda, of legendary comic Gilda Radner. (Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival)|
Lisa D'Apolito's documentary, Love, Gilda, is about the late Gilda Radner, best-known as an original cast member of "Saturday Night Live." My review of the film, which made its world premier at Tribeca, is here: https://www.biography.com/news/gilda-radner-documentary-love-gilda-review
|This is an e-mail sent to media critic and web series producer Anita Sarkeesian, one of Cynthia Lowen's subjects the documentary Netizens. (Photo courtesy of Susan Norget Public Relations)|
My review of Cynthia Lowen's documentary, Netizens, about cyber crimes committed against women is here: http://www.filmjournal.com/tribeca-doc-netizens-highlights-online-harassment-women
Apr 15, 2018
|Recy Taylor, the subject of the documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor.|
Feb 2, 2018
|A still from Christine Choy and Marlene Dann's "To Love, Honor and Obey," screening at Metrograph in New York City.|
One refreshing alternative opening this weekend, "Tell Me," is a series of films by and about women (and curated by a woman) at New York City's Metrograph movie theater. Another is Please Stand By, a woman's quest film starring Dakota Fanning, that will open across the country. Ms. Fanning's character is autistic, an even more unusual twist in female-centered narratives. My review of the film is here: http://www.filmjournal.com/reviews/film-review-please-stand. Here is my article about "Tell Me: http://www.filmjournal.com/women-talk-about-their-lives-metrographs-incisive-tell-me-series
Jan 4, 2018
Dec 27, 2017
|This is our cat, Lucia, who has learned that if she rubs her cheek against that golden ball, the lights turn on and off. This has nothing to do with the blog post except that it is my favorite 2017 holiday photo!|
Computing and submitting student grades on time is complicated by online grading—and the mysterious practices of tech departments. (When I began teaching undergrad classes, there were no tech departments.) I have taught at four colleges since the advent of online grading systems, in two different states and, without fail, each December and June, the tech department schedules upgrades to the "system," either right before the grades are to be submitted or during the week when they are due to be posted for students. At one college, my department required midterm exams (not a usual practice in film or literature), after which professors were given 5 days to submit a midterm grade—just before Thanksgiving break. On the second day, we received an e-mail from the tech department stating that the "system" would be down for an unscheduled but minor "overnight" upgrade.
The upgrade erased everyone's password. It took several hours for all of us in the department to realize that we were not experiencing the usual problems of forgetting our password, or using an outdated password, or having our number lock or cap lock on—the error message was, in fact, the fault of the "system." Since people in different academic departments rarely talk to each other, and there were only a half dozen beleaguered students on the Help Line, and all of us got a busy signal when we called them, the entire institution was in meltdown until we received a second message from the tech department at 2 PM telling us what we already knew . . . But only a select few received that message because we had been clever enough to give the tech department our private e-mail addresses. Without a password, no one could access their college e-mail.
I am too pragmatic a person to be nostalgic; as a woman, I rarely feel that any aspect of my life was better in the past than it is now . . . but I have to admit that I miss the practice of each professor posting grades on their door (by the last four digits of every student's Social Security number). When I was a student, that end-of-term ritual of visiting professors’ offices, where they were required to be at their desks, often yielded informal conversations that, as an undergraduate, one simply did not have with professors outside one's major. For instance, I have the most wonderful memory of an astronomy professor I had as an undergrad.
Dec 9, 2017
|A still from the Dardenne Brothers' film "The Unknown Girl."|
One of these conventions is the appearance of the “Beast of individuation,” a person who compels the heroic personality to confront their wounds. He or she signals a return to the past, always a dangerous enterprise in which the hero enters a temporary state of confusion. The past and the present co-exist. Not every hero survives and some quests end in despair or madness. Regardless of the outcome, heroic personalities seek a conscious existence and are therefore singular—and inspiring. My list of “2017 Best Quest Films of the Year” is not one filled with stories of knights in shining armor, but rather of tales of protagonists who undertake a quest for meaning.
And, there are 13, in alphabetical order.
|A still from Edoardo De Angelis's "Indivisible."|
A Woman, A Part: Facebook post, March 21st
Felicite (Director Interview): http://www.filmjournal.com/features/mothers-quest-alain-gomis-f%C3%A9licit%C3%A9-chronicles-african-womans-drive-save-her-son
Future Perfect: Facebook Post, March 14th; L’Ultima Parola, http://mariagarciawriter.blogspot.com/2017/03/new-directorsnew-films-2017.html
Nov 22, 2017
|A studio shot of Hedy Lamarr, the subject of a new documentary. (Courtesy of Zeitgeist and Kino Lorber)|
Under "Feature Articles, Print and Online," there is a link to my interview with Alexandra Dean for her biodoc Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story that will open in theaters this Friday. The documentary is about the late Austrian-born Hollywood actress's little-known talent for invention. In the course of our conversation, Ms. Dean spoke about her passion for finding other women's stories, especially about innovators who have been written out of history.
Brett Morgen's documentary Jane (link to my review appears in "Film Reviews, Print and Online"), about Jane Goodall, is another important reminder of the work of women in science. While Hedy Lamarr only received posthumous recognition for developing a communications system that served as the basis for WiFi and Bluetooth, 83 year-old Ms. Goodall, a primatologist, is world-renowned, and remains the leading expert in chimpanzees.
Lastly, I reviewed Thomas Morgan's Soufra, a wonderful documentary about Mariam Shafar who is the third generation of her family to live in a refugee camp in Lebanon. The title of the film is also the name of her catering business that consists of an all-female crew of chefs, sous chefs and kitchen helpers, Palestinian and Syrian women who also live in the camp. The documentary breaks every stereotype of Muslim women audiences are accustomed to seeing onscreen.
|This is a still of Vevo Tshanda Beya, the star of Félicité. (Courtesy of Strand Releasing)|
Two of the three interviews I conducted with female directors will be published in the next few months. While I wish I could say this represents a trend, I do not think it does. On the other hand, recent events have turned the tide. Women speaking out about their sexual assaults, for instance, will soon be reflected in our most popular art form.
It has been 26 years since Anita Hill testified to sexual harassment at the hands of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and women hoped then that it would open a national debate on harassment. It did not, but now Ms. Hill is revisiting that testimony. I hope some smart woman filmmaker will seize the opportunity and tell Ms. Hill's story, as well as those of the other women never called before the Senate hearing that day who were also victims of Justice Thomas's crimes.
Oct 31, 2017
|Left to right, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Byrd; Woody Harrelson as LBJ; and Kim Allen as Jackie Kennedy in a scene from Rob Reiner's LBJ opening this weekend.|
Oct 11, 2017
|Vanessa Redgrave is seen here in a still from her documentary Sea Sorrow. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is in the background, holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United Nations in 1948.|
Sep 24, 2017
|Judi Dench, Stephen Frears and Ali Fazal on-location for Victoria and Abdul.|
Sep 10, 2017
|A still from the movie Victoria and Abdul features Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as her "munshi" or teacher Abdul. (Photo courtesy of Peter Mountain/Focus Features)|
Aug 30, 2017
|Dolores Huerta at a Delano Grape Boycott in California.|
Peter Bratt’s documentary Dolores corrects the historical record of the United Farm Workers—and it needs correction. The labor movement that originated in the late 1950s, and that grew into a union, erased from its corporate memory one of the most charismatic labor organizers of the 20th century, Dolores Huerta, replacing her with the equally well-known organizer Cesar Chavez. The two were actually co-founders of the UFW. My interview with Dolores and the filmmaker is here: https://www.biography.com/news/dolores-huerta-documentary-interview. Bratt's documentary represents a great way to celebrate Labor Day weekend in New York City. It will open on 9/1 at the IFC Theater.
Aug 14, 2017
Movies I don't want to screen anymore are ones that . . .
Are about competitive female relationships, or about women who are obsessed with other women because they’re jealous or needy, especially not ones made by male directors.
Feature evil female characters when the people they refer to are male historical figures. Note: a woman did not invent nerve gas.
Are about men rescuing women, except in cases where the woman may be drowning.
Feature a white person who rescues an African-American from a life of poverty. Maybe it's happened but this is not the historical moment for that narrative.
Feature ladies of a certain age who are scoffed at.
Are about women who are serial murders. I think there have been four in the entire history of the world.
Are lesbian romances that are obviously intended as soft porn for heterosexual men. (Really, we know these movies when we see them.)
Are geographically challenged. All deserts are not alike. There are no mountains in Texas, nor are there tigers or lemurs on the African continent.
Are about grown men or male buddies who are acting like frat boys. They’re never funny, in real life or the movies.
Are male fantasies in which women rescue men who are ignorant, lazy or abusive, and need a second chance.
Are about rapists, pedophiles, sociopaths and psychopaths that suggest they can be rehabilitated. It is not true and we shouldn't tell our children that it is.
Are about rape and that suggest that the motive for rape is sexual attraction. It’s not. Rape is a motivated by violence, not sex.
At the end, I can’t answer the question: Why did the filmmaker make this movie?
Aug 8, 2017
Ever cat lover knows that Jean Cocteau's Beast in La Belle et la Bête (1946) is a feline creature. Look at those lion ears and that noble nose! Cocteau's lover, Jean Marais, endured five hours of preparation by the make-up artist every day of the on-location shoot in order to be transformed into this magnificent creature. He could only spring from the imagination of an ailurophile. Cocteau's masterpiece was long the inspiration for my recently published book, Cinematic Quests for Identity: The Hero's Encounter with the Beast.
Check my Twitter page for my favorite cat movies.