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Entries in women who lie to themselves (18)

Sunday
Sep162018

Women on the Verge at TIFF: abandoned wives, kindergarten teachers, and activists

by Nathaniel R

Why does anyone make movies about men? No, really. Female characters are inherently more fascinating. That's not only because they're allowed a wider range of feeling onscreen due to repressive gender norms which discourage men from embracing a full range of emotion, but because women's stories are more infrequently told and, thus, fresher. Herewith four recommended movies about women on the verge of either nervous breakdowns, or major crimes. 

WILDLIFE and WIDOWS
Chris has already reviewed these intense dramas about abandoned wives here and here. We'll have plentiful opportunities to discuss them during Oscar season but I just want to second his surprise rave of Wildlife  because it's spot-on. I'll admit, though, that I'm ever so slightly cooler on Widows than I initially thought. I attended the very starry premiere (seriously that cast!) and the screening and movie were both so electric that I was like 'favorite of the fest. wow' But it doesn't linger in quite the way you'd expect given how exciting it is in the moment (it's going to be a big hit). Still, it's the film from TIFF that I'm most eager to see a second time. 

WOMAN AT WAR
Woman at War is the story of a childless choir director Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir in a no-nonsense charismatic turn) who moonlights as a fearless environmental activist in her spare time. Halla has caused enormous problems for a local corporation by knocking out their power again and again. She evades capture with impressive physical skill, careful planning, and paranoid routines; there's a funny recurring shot in which she places her cel phone in a refridgerator before speaking to friends in person about secretive matters. Just as her corporate sabotage is beginning to make real world waves, she learns that she's going to be a mother via adoption proceedings she began years prior. How can she do both?

The Icelandic writer/director Benedikt Erlingsson arrived with Of Horses and Men, an indelible Oscar submission in 2013. This tense, twisty, and provocative sophomore feature is even better and confirms that that was no mere fluke. He's a singular talent, able to imbue sly visual and narrative humor with idiosyncratic depth of feeling. His boldest move in Woman at War, one that risks being a distracting comic gimmick but somehow elevates the picture into the sublime, is an on-camera orchestra. They give the picture a score that doubles as both interior monologue and greek chorus, commenting on but also entangled in Halla's complex possibly disastrous passions. Highly recommended!

THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Maggie Gyllenhaal is terrific and troubling (no surprise. That's kind of her thing) as a teacher who becomes obsessed with a student. Her favorite little student composes beautiful poems on the spot with little warning that the muse has struck. Fearing that his prodigious talent will wither and die if it's not nurtured she begins to step outside her proper place in the classroom and walks right into his life outside. For all of Mrs Spinelli's madness, the complicating factor is how right she often is when her behavior is all wrong. Despite the fascinating central character there's something that feels incomplete or slight about this intriguing drama that's remained difficult to put a finger on. Regardless, the final scene haunts and a great ending can go a long way. 

 

Wednesday
Mar222017

Big Little Lies MVPs: Episode 5 "Once Bitten"

Previously: episode 1 and 2, episode 3 and episode 4. Here's Nathaniel's take on Episode 5

In the fifth episode, we've reached what has to be a boiling point as Jane, Madeline, Celeste and Renata all seem to be coming absolutely unhinged simultaneously. Spoiler alert for the rest of this post: this show is just superb and it's giving us more actressing than we even know what to do with. *tosses roses at television*

Top Ten MVPs of Big Little Lies. Episode 5 "Once Bitten"

10. Madeline's Dream
Bonus points to the show for having a sense of humor about its hardcore annoying refusal to let us know who was murdered. Also any Avenue Q reference is golden.  

09 "Bully Free Zone"
That damn bright yellow & red sign. 

Don't you feel like it's constantly just taunting everyone in the school? At least half of the adults in this show are bullies themselves and everyone seems so helplessly ill equipped to deal with bullying in school on top of their other issues... 

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct302016

Have You Caught Up to Amazon's "Fleabag"

Chris here. Of all of the season's new series, one that you certainly haven't been hearing enough about is Amazon's Fleabag. Debuting quietly around the time of the third season of Amazon's flagship Transparent, Fleabag deserves so much more than getting lost in the shuffle. Written by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge, the show is a scabrously funny and sad take on a London woman's coping through grief, sex, and being "a bad feminist". If all that sounds too familiar, you may not be prepared for the freshness and frankness of Waller-Bridge's voice.

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Sunday
Aug072016

Stream This: The Others, The Piano, Inside Llewyn Davis

In the effort to stay au courant we'll alternate between Netflix and Amazon Prime for streaming news each week. And we'll freeze frame select titles at random places just for fun and see what image comes up. You know how we do! 

LAST CHANCE AMAZON PRIME


Felton: I look... is distinguished a word?
Lange: It's a word.

In Secret (2014, expires August 18th)
What is this? Oscar Isaac, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton and Jessica Lange? Big name casts for movies that don't seem to actually exist that you suddenly realize do, in fact, exist, are kind of unnerving. Like how do movies that never really get released find financing to get made in the first place? Apparently Oscar Isaac plays an artist in this one (they're looking at a portrait he painted of Felton) so that's kind of smudgy hot regardless. Isaac with paint stains I mean.

Men weren't up to the task!

Robocop (2014, expires august 18th) 
So that errant quote that popped up when I slid the bar to a random point in this useless movie is as good a quote as any to describe the foolhardiness of remaking a Paul Verhoeven picture. The Dutch auteur is many things but "remakeable" is not one of them. You've lost before you've begun essentially. See also the Total Recall remake and whichever one gets remade after that... maybe Basic Instinct?

seven more freeze framed films, some great/some terrible, after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jun222016

Best Shot(s): The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972)

Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Season 7 Episode 16


The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant
Written and Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Cinematography by Michael Ballhaus 

When you watch a lot of movies you inadvertently end up drawing comparisons between films that you wouldn't have thought to put in conversation previously. It's as if you've accidentally become a guest programmer of a repertory theater or a local festival. Such was the case this week when I (not intentionally) watched Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) nearly back to back and shook my fists to the heavens and cursed the name of anyone who ever regurgitated the lie that you have to "open up" stage plays to make them work on screen. 

Tears. not totally bitter yet but she's getting there.

Sometimes half the power of a text is in its site-specific constriction. So I went from George & Martha's messy drab campus housing with a bar (or at least its contents) in every room, to the stylish studio apartment of fashion designer Petra Von Kant which was paradoxically both over-decorated and minimalist, and both frozen in place and ever-shifting without explanation (Wasn't the bed over there in the last scene? Can these mannequins move around the room at will like the toys in Pixar movies?). I loved every second of both films and especially, perhaps paradoxically for someone who prefers short movies, the foreboding sense that there was no way to exit either film, ever, unless you accepted your fate and drowned in their contagious neuroses.

All it takes to make a play cinematic when it becomes a movie is great filmmakers. That's it. That's the whole formula...

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Wednesday
Oct282015

Kristen Wiig's Awards Bait: 'Crying in a Sweater'

Margaret here, bringing you the first of this year's Oscar-bait parodies and with it proof that awards season is fully upon us.

Kristen Wiig, on the promo circuit for Nasty Baby, used her spot as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to debut the trailer for her new "extremely independent" movie Crying in a Sweater (directed by Michael Bay). The title, if you can believe it, about covers it: Wiig lolls about tearfully in a series of sweaters while rhapsodic critical praise scrolls by. She's poking fun at the kind of dramatic low-budget Oscar hopeful that she's starred in more than once, but the result is silly enough that it doesn't read as snide.

My personal favorite performances in the Crying in a Sweater subgenre include Toni Collette in The Sixth Sense, Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game, and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, but the gold standard has to be Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give:

    

In fact, there's a lot of overlap here with the favored TFE movie category Women Who Lie to Themselves. Which prompts the question: what are your favorite crying-in-a-sweater performances? How many of them come from Women Who Lie to Themselves?