Widows – Brand New Trailer!

Have you ever seen a film trailer that made you wet yourself from excitement?

Well, you are just about to watch Widows.

The new film from Steve McQueen and co-written by Gillian Flynn stars Viola Davis, Elizabeth Dibecki, and Daniel Kaluuya. It revolves around a group of women who husbands die after a heist goes wrong. Pulling themselves together in order to complete the job, the surviving wives are hounded by police and murderous mobsters.

This looks intense, amazing, and that cast list is outstanding! What do you think?

Widows is out later this year! 

Skate Kitchen – Sundance London Review

The first feature film from Crystal Moselle, after her 2015 truth-really-is-stranger-than-fiction documentary The Wolfpack, is the kind of film that is both about everything and nothing. It’s about the big stuff – maternal, fraternal, platonic, romantic relationships along with self-image and what makes us tick – and the small stuff that occurs along the way.

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The film opens with newly 18 year old Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) suffering an injury during a session on her skateboard. Worried that worse injuries could occur next time, her mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez) bans her from skating. It doesn’t last long. Camille can’t stand not skating, especially not since she discovered and joined The Skate Kitchen – a group of young women who love to skate as much as she does. When her mother catches her out vicious arguments quickly form causing Camille to move from the suburbs and join her new friends in New York City. She’s soon submerged in her newly discovered subculture, making true friendships and discovering herself along the way.

The film follows some familiar coming-of-age beats – there’s the initiation period, the honeymoon period and things getting hitting the deck courtesy of a possible romantic partner – but that doesn’t stop the film being quietly revolutionary in its own way due to how raw and real at whole lot of it feels. From the larger sequences (parties and at the skate park) to the smaller hangouts and just skating around the city these sense of finding your tribe remains omnipresent. There’s a sense of self-discovery in every conversation Camille has and everything she does; each step leading her to the person she’s meant to be.

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That’s not to say the dialogue is heavy and loaded – far from it! Instead the performances and the accompanying dialogue seem naturalistic and raw. It frequently feels like we’re sitting in on their hangouts, listening – to them speak about parents, boys and periods to name but a few topics – in a truthful, self-deprecating and slightly world-weary way that feels real. Few films have such developed female friendships or devote this much time to looking at their dynamics. And that’s something that truly needs celebrating.

Skate Kitchen played at Sundance Film Festival 

Half the Picture – Sundance London Review

For the last three years, I have taken Women in Media’s 52 films challenge, watching (at least) fifty-two films directed or co-directed by women per year. Although not the point, I made the challenge harder for myself by focusing on new releases only, watched where possible in a screening room with other people. If I just focused on what was released in UK cinemas only, where, for example, some 821 films were released in 2016, I would not complete the challenge. Indeed, it is only possible to complete it by going to film festivals or attending one-off screenings – the quest has so far taken me to Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, Leiden, Haugesund and Toronto.

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I look forward to the year when there is gender parity behind the camera, when the challenge is no longer necessary. As Amy Adrion’s documentary, Half the Picture demonstrates, we are a long way off, as evidenced by the institutional poor support given to women directors in Hollywood. Adrion interviewed a wide range of working – in some cases non-working – directors to give a flavour of what the issues are. The results are alarming.

It is impossible not to be angered by Pixar’s treatment of Brenda Chapman, who was fired from the 2012 box-office hit, Brave only to see the story suggestions that the studio initially questioned being restored to the film. Picking up the Oscar for Best Animated Film, she was told not to leave remarks to her replacement, Mark Andrews, but paid tribute to her daughter nevertheless. As a foot note, Chapman has been announced as the director of the live action fantasy drama, Come Away, which top-lines Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo.

Then there was the treatment by Lorne Michaels of Penelope Spheeris, who was not allowed to make films on Saturday Night Live, was eventually given the gig of helming the box-office hit, Wayne’s World but was passed over for the sequel – the latter was a flop, she rasps, unable to suppress her relish. Although Spheeris got other studio assignments – The Beverly Hillbillies, The Little Rascals and Black Sheep starring the late Chris Farley – she got fed up with the interference and the ‘bullshit’. Now, like Barbra Streisand (not interviewed here) she has given up filmmaking altogether and instead designs houses. As a second foot note, one of Spheeris’ later films, The Kid & I about a teenager with cerebral palsy (Eric Gores) who loves action films and wants to appear in one, sounds generally interesting. Tom Arnold wrote and appears in the film and Spheeris plays herself as the director of the film-within-a-film.

Adrion’s interviewees include Rosanna Arquette, Patricia Riggen, Patricia Cardoso, Catherine Hardwicke, Lena Dunham, Miranda July, Ava DuVernay, Sam Taylor-Johnson, Jill Soloway, Karyn Kusama, Gina Prince-Blythewood as well as the prolific British Oscar nominated documentarian Lucy Walker who was accused of not directing her films. (‘Would they say that to a man?’) Kimberley Peirce describes how, when she proposed the film, Stop-Loss, she was asked whether she could handle action sequences with four cameras and ‘what qualified her to make the film?’  Significantly, neither Kathryn Bigalow, the only female recipient of the Best Director Oscar (for The Hurt Locker) nor Wonder Woman’s director Patty Jenkins was interviewed.

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The documentary builds to a lawsuit brought in 2015 by director Maria Giese (When Saturday Comes) against Hollywood through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union. Giese’s – and many others – argument is that Hollywood studios use mentoring programmes as a smokescreen for not offering women the opportunity to be included in short lists for big budget projects. It took women within the industry like Ava DuVernay and Jill Soloway to change the way women were hired. While the show reels submitted by women cinematographers looked less impressive than those offered by their male counterparts, this was because they had less to work with – one light and a bounce board. It is only through positive discrimination – hiring in spite of the lack of credits – that some producers challenge prejudice.

One of the best interviewees is Miranda July, who put her own directing career on hold to look after her child while her husband Mike Mills went off to direct 20th Century Women. July describes how she set up in 1995 the ‘Big Miss Moviola’ compilation tape, inviting women filmmakers to submit one short and $5 (together with a personal statement); in return they would receive a videotape with that short and nine others; threatened with a legal suit, she changed the name of the scheme to ‘Joanie 4 Jackie’. Submissions included Dulcie Clarkson’s ‘How the Miracle of Masturbation Saved Me from Becoming a Teenage Space Alien’; most of films were from women in college or college graduates. July handed the scheme to others in 2003 as she prepared her debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know and saw the scheme made redundant in 2009 with the advent of YouTube. July also describes how her second feature, The Future, featured European actors in supporting roles to justify the financial support from Germany.

Adrion ends her film on an optimistic note, but the reality is that the lawsuit is making slow progress and 2018 has seen fewer studio films directed by women than ever. I counted four: A Wrinkle in Time (Disney), Blockers (Universal), The Spy Who Dumped Me (Lionsgate) and The Darkest Minds (20th Century Fox). Whilst Sony has acquired Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale, a period revenge drama starring Sam Claflin and Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch, starring George McKay as a son of a high-ranking SS officer who has a relationship with a biracial girl, Leyna (Amandla Stenberg), neither film has a release date. Television and streaming services offer the best employment opportunities for women directors until a director like Patty Jenkins can prove once again, that women directors can deliver big box office.

The Tale – Sundance London Review

Difficult movies come in every form. There are tonnes of films out there that tackle the hard stories – the secret ones, murky in our memories and subconscious. Movies are excavation. They dig deep into the psyche of us and put it on the screen. Tough watches cling to you for many different reasons; it either confronts you with pain in order to wake you up to experiences that others go through, beckoning empathy and understanding, or it could allow you to find solace in a movie as ghosts from your own past need soothing and healing through the arts.

Using her own harrowing truth to extrapolate her issues, Jennifer Fox has laid bare her raw past in The Tale.

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Turning from documentary to story-telling, Jennifer Fox directs this intricate semi-autobiographical story. As a director, Fox has a seemingly brilliant life – a loving fiance and a fantastic career. However, when her mother uncovers an intimate story written by her 13 year old self, she starts to remember the abuse she suffered as a child. She then must try to piece it all together.

I’m going to be honest, as I write this now, quaking just moments from the ending. I am finding it hard to piece together my thoughts on the film. And perhaps I’ll remove this line when I have formulated some sort of idea on how I feel and how it is an impacting piece of drama. The work here is a hard watch – not graphic in the way that sexual abuse is usually exploited on the big screen – but detailed enough for it to trigger a response. It’s gruesome and bleak, not just the acts but the grooming. The sinister cheery smile of Bill and the sickly corralling of Mrs. G perturb with their niceties in order to cause atrocities. This, matched with Jennifer’s triggered panics later on in life, make an uncomfortable but an utterly necessary watch. This is cinematic therapy that could earnestly help other sufferers. The imagery is painfully vivid but it is beautifully shot as Fox, the character, uncovers her own truth, locked away from herself.

Fox’s play with memory is the real mastery here. Though her trauma is real, the details shift and change as new layers and information is uncovered. Cleverly, the actress portraying her younger self changes. As she resolves she was in a relationship with the older Bill, Jennifer pictures herself as an older girl. Only when her mother reveals photographs does this change. It’s important that The Tale is portrayed in this manner, showcasing how our minds can play tricks on us to protect ourselves. It makes the story more painful, as a mind allows a young girl to lock away her own truth to protect herself.

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Laura Dern embodies a women on the edge of unravelling her repression. In one scene she just stares, the thoughts of her abuse and her anger sitting delicately on the surface wanting retribution for an act that shaped and changed her. There is an astute awareness from Dern and it is an immensely powerful performance, driven by anguish, fear, and yearning to complete the story. Elizabeth Debecki is chilling as the alluring Mrs. G and her delivery is so concise and breaking that it……………

The Tale may be a difficult watch but you must, you must watch this. Jennifer Fox is a fearless filmmaker who has bared her scars in order to tell this story. It is an evocative and poignant piece of brutal honesty.

The Tale premiered at Sundance London Film Festival
It screens on Sky Atlantic on 5th June