We Are the Champions (of Women’s Films) – Hollywood’s Female Critic Drought

0 Comments 21 May 2015

Maya of 'Zero Dark Thirty' Takes no Prisoners (& Bigelow & Chastain)

Maya of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Takes no Prisoners (& Bigelow & Chastain)

Colorado College Senior Rebecca Celli has my back — and I’m sharing her New York Times Letter to the Editor below. Thank you, Rebecca Celli — and let’s do lunch soon. Gender inequality among the gatekeepers of film criticism has been high on my professional agenda for years. I have been screaming this to the rooftops for years. The shocker is that, while some women of my generation broke through and had a good run, many, many senior influential women critics have fallen by the wayside and not been picked up. And as for solidarity from our male colleagues, it has been anemic. Recently, when I went to post a review of Mad Max: Fury Road on RottenTomatoes, I was overwhelmingly surrounded by male voices. Can we change this? I have twice launched Adams on Reel Women columns on mainstream (not women’s) sites: AMC and then Yahoo Movies, and both time seen the column eradicated despite its success and influence. Yes, I’m part of the fight for more women directors — but when I interview Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Jessica Chastain or Melissa Leo or Charlize Theron or Emily Blunt or Rachel Weisz, I alw . She begins her well-reasoned letter in response to the article “A.C.L.U Pushes for Inquiry into Bias Against Female Directors:”

The American Civil Liberties Union’s recent complaint makes clear what everyone in Hollywood (and many of us outside Hollywood) know: Social networks and implicit discriminatory processes privilege men over women and threaten equal opportunity for women in the film industry.

But the issue is not limited to who gets to direct the movies; it extends to how those movies are seen.

I’ve just completed a yearlong quantitative and qualitative study of professional film criticism. I analyzed 131 reviews of 46 films that won audience awards at major film festivals to evaluate how a director’s gender affects reviews of films by critics.

And Ms. Celli continues from there, concluding:

It is a positive first step for the A.C.L.U. to examine how stereotyping influences how films are made and by whom. The next step, a necessary one, is to understand how such thinking affects how films are consumed and understood.

We female critics are often the champions of women’s films, and the gatekeepers in a field, I cannot say community, that is frequently disrespectful or dismissive of our voices. This is a call to arms, sisters (and brothers, too).

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Celebrity, Movies, Oscar Race

Julianne Moore’s Long Red Carpet to the Oscars

0 Comments 21 May 2015

Julianne Moore sighs over a mondo coffee cup in 'Maps to the Stars' and wins Best Actress at Cannes 2014

Julianne Moore sighs over a mondo coffee cup in ‘Maps to the Stars’ and wins Best Actress at Cannes 2014

Can it be only a year since Julianne Moore owned the red carpet at Cannes — and won the festival’s Best Actress — for playing a diva on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Maps to the Stars? And then David Cronenberg’s bitter little Hollywood pill lost its way to the theaters and what had once seemed like Julianne’s yearstumbled. And then came Alice, Still Alice and Moore was back in play. Here’s my interview of Moore for the New York Observer that appeared on January 21st on finding Oscar without a map:

It was a lunch at Le Cirque, it was star-studded, and actress Julianne Moore was at Table One. The star of Still Alice—a tough, raw portrait of an academic, wife and mother coping with the disintegration of her identity due to early-onset Alzheimer’s—looked, at 54, terrific. Friends surrounded her: Kate Capshaw, wife of Steven Spielberg, on her right; Ellen Barkin to her left. The mood was hopeful, even giddy, with a side of wood-knocking: Ms. Moore was and is the frontrunner for the Best Actress Academy Award. Last week, she received her fifth nomination and, if it happens February 22, this would be her first win.

It’s no coincidence that Cate Blanchett held down that same circular table last year on her juggernaut to the Oscar for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, also, not coincidentally, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. But while Ms. Blanchett held the Best Actress lead from a midsummer release to the Oscars, it’s not an easy position to maintain. Ms. Blanchett’s frontrunner status could easily have been torpedoed by the abuse scandal surrounding director Woody Allen Continue Reading

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Celebrity, Movies

Outtakes: Bill Hader, the voice of Fear in ‘Inside Out,’ Rattled Bones in ‘The Skeleton Twins’

0 Comments 20 May 2015

Hader in a wig with Wiig

Hader in a wig with Wiig

Bill Hader is a worrier who defuses the tension with humor, and more worry. In honor of the acclaim Inside Out is receiving at Cannes where Hader is the voice of Fear, I’m reviving the longer interview I did with him during Oscar season. If you haven’t seen him in The Skeleton Twins” yet – rent it! Rent it now! Hader deserved an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Milo, the suicidal gay brother in The Skeleton Twins opposite Kristen Wiig. It was a case of The Academy being challenged to recognize that great crossover from sketch comedy into darkly comedic drama. So I started out asking Hader about his escape from the sketch comedy and the result was some pretty intelligent improv:

Bill Hader: The difference between working at SNL and the first time I got to play a dramatic role, I really got to go in depth. Sketch comedy is by definition pad and pencil and quick sketch. With Milo, this was really the first time I got to get in depth with a character. Most of it was drawing form people that I knew, gay friends of mine. Because Milo attempts to commit suicide, I actually had a good friend from high school who had attempted suicide freshman year at college. I called him and after we made small talk he told me he had attempted to slash his wrists with a razor blade in a bathtub. We had an open and blunt conversation about it and he gave me some insight. He didn’t consider himself depressed just feeling like he had no other way to turn at college, missing his family and he wasn’t doing well, and drinking too much. He told me that the minute you start actually doing it this weird final, primal switch flipped in his head. He started screaming for help, And I told the director that. We did a couple of version of that scene but when we did the full panic attack we realized it’s hard to start the movie like that so, instead, we went for the in between version.”

What other preparation did you do, Bill?

BH: What I also did was a learning process, reading the script and then working with all these great artists, like the costume designer, on what he’s going to wear, the wristbands to cover up the scars, the bands Milo likes, and the Production Designer on what his apartment would be like. You do all this research and you show up on set, and you have all this knowledge and then it’s just reacting to people like Kristen [Wiig] and Ty [Burrell] and Joanna [Gleason] and Luke [Wilson]. You’re just listening to people but you have all this info. I never worked that way before and it was really rewarding.
[Related: Sundance Scoop: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader Pair Up as ‘The Skeleton Twins]

What surprised you about playing Milo?

Was how strong the guy was. There’s a scene with Ty Burrelll [who plays his former high school teacher and first lover] where we get in a fight in the movie. I’d always seen that as a scene where Milo is trying to get his way. This is the first person Milo ever had sex with. He has that power over Milo. And when we were rehearsing it, I realized the status had changed so we blocked it that way where I stood up over him looking down at him. The words were still the same but it changed the whole dynamic of the scene. You do all this research and it’s just reacting, in that moment I was surprised and scared. It really came to life. I’d never had that kind of a moment before in acting. For me that was the first time where the character was leading me instead of the other way around. It’s true. I’m not behind the wheel anymore and Milo is. After that, it feels false or stale or wrong when you struggle for the wheel.

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Movies, Oscar Race

Contenders 2016: From the Palmes d’Or to the Oscars

0 Comments 18 May 2015

Cate Blanchett in the title role

Cate Blanchett in the title role

We hate to be looking over someone’s shoulder like Carol/Cate but we know that somewhere, beyond next winter, the movies of sunny spring will be competing for Oscar. And right at the front of that long red-carpet march is Blanchett, only two years out from her Best Actress win for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. (Like Blanche DuBois, we’re constantly looking at the past and struggling with the disappointments of the present.) Blanchett was the queen of Cannes 2013 — and no one could catch her. So, I’m tossing out some ideas generated by Cannes for Contenders:





Todd Haynes (Carol)

Paolo Sorrentino (Youth)


Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Emily Blunt (Sicario)

Marion Cotillard (Macbeth)

Emma Stone (Irrational Man)


Rooney Mara (Carol)


Michael Caine (Youth)

Michael Fassbender (Macbeth)

Joaquin Phoenix (Irrational Man)


Woody Allen (Irrational Man)


Phyllis Nagy (Carol)


Son of Saul

The Other Sister


Inside Out




Richard Deakins (Sicario)

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Cannes 2015: More Must-See Films From the Festival

0 Comments 17 May 2015

A Todd Haynes sandwich with Rooney Mara on the left, Cate Blanchett on the right

A Todd Haynes sandwich with Rooney Mara on the left, Cate Blanchett on the right

It’s never been easier to follow the Cannes Film Festival from the comfort of one’s couch. You can debate about whether that’s a good thing or not — but it’s certainly frugal. And, since I wrote a fun feature for Variety editor Carole Horst from this very well-worn spot in which I talked to Christine Vachon, who produced Carol with Elizabeth Karlsen about Vachon’s favorite Cannes eatery, I have skin in the game. About as much skin as can be found on the underside of a Barbie Band-Aid given to a child for dramatic effect for a skinned knee. Anyway, here are more films that have broken out, including Todd Haynes’ Carol.


The Lobster: In a dystopian future beyond, singletons have 45 days to reconnect — or they are turned into animals. Greek Director Yorgos (Dogtooth) Lanthimos’ star-studded exploration of future love features Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell, Lea Seydoux and John C. Reilly that was just picked up by Alchemy.


Youth: Boos and bravos met Italian Director Paolo Sorrentino’s (2013’s La Grande Belleza) gorgeous English-language entry for the Palme d’Or. Michael Caine stars as a famous orchestra conductor contemplating aging in a posh mountain resort. Snapped up by Fox Searchlight for U.S. distribution, the drama also stars Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda, Rachel Weisz and Paul Dano.

Disorder (Maryland): Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone) stars as a French special forces operative with PTSD hired to protect a Lebanese businessman’s wife (Diane Kruger). Alice Winocour (Augustine) directs this home invasion thriller that has been picked up by Sundance Selects.

Hot bodies in motion: Kruger seeks Schoenaerts' protection

Hot bodies in motion: Kruger seeks Schoenaerts’ protection

Mon RoiThe great Vincent Cassel (Black Swan, A Dangerous Method), who I interviewed for Huffington Post in 2010, and Emmanuelle Bercot (Polisse, Carlos) chart the doomed path of their relationship and marriage without succumbing to good guy/bad guy tropes. (The one you love; the one you cannot keep.) What excites me is that it is directed and co-written by Maiwenn, who directed Polisse, in which she fully submerged herself in the muck of the Paris Child Protection Unit (and won a Cannes jury prize). If you’re curious about that film, check out my late column, Adams on Reel Women, with the editor Nina Hammerling Smith about that French procedural perfect for Law & Order junkies who love subtitles like I do. The You Tube trailer is in French but the charisma is universal:

Sicario: French Canadian director Denise Villeneuve (Incendies) returns with a drug cartel drama pairing Josh Brolin and Emily Blunt. (When Villeneuve’s last film, Prisoners, came out I talked to Jake Gyllenhaal about his role as a detective-with-demons for Yahoo Movies.) THR‘s Todd McCarthy wrote: “The violence of the inter-American drug trade has served as the backdrop for any number of films for more than three decades, but few have been as powerful and superbly made as Sicario.” The title means “hitman” in Cartel slang (and you’d have to kill me for me to reveal how I know that).

Blunt, Brolin, bullets

Blunt, Brolin, bullets

  Cemetery of Splendour: Already being hailed as a masterpiece by no less than the Film Society’s Dennis Lim, this is the first feature from the unspellable Thai Director Apitchatpong Weerasethakul. He won the Palmes d’Or in 2010 for Uncle Boommee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. That movie, which I caught up with at the Dubai International Film Festival, felt like being charmed by a snake out of The Jungle Book, a fantastic out-of-body experience wedded to the completely ordinary. This film, just acquired by Strand Releasing, is about — as much as his films are “about” anything — nurses tending to soldiers with a mysterious sleeping sickness and the dreams, phantoms and spirits this kicks up in a swirl around them at the clinic.     Inside Out: Swimming against my own biases (and those warning voices in my head), I can’t ignore the mad praise for Pixar’s latest from Pete Docter (Up), which premiered at Cannes to, yes, cheers. According to The Wrap’s Steve Pond: “[Docter] has figured out how to pull off a daunting concept, and in the process made a movie as thematically daring as it is emotionally moving.” With Amy Poehler, Mindy Kalling and Bill Hader among the vocal talent, this story of a young woman jousting with her (very vocal) emotions following a move from the Midwest to San Francisco lacks a single Kraft-cheese colored Minion. And for that I’m thankful.   Continue Reading

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