Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.
For decades the science fiction genre has long excluded the female demographic. Although it is unclear why, one can perhaps assume that women’s exclusion was rooted within misogynistic sexual and gender-based viewpoints. What IS clear, is that Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time was unique for its time and a welcomed surprise enjoyed by all audiences, later winning the John Newbery Medal in 1963. Over fifty years later, it seems only fitting that Emmy Award-winner Ava DuVernay would be chosen to direct the re-adaptation as the first black woman to direct a live-action film with a budget of over a $100 million.
The sudden disappearance of NASA scientist Dr. Alexander Murry (Chris Pine) has caused havoc on both his children Meg (Storm Reid) and Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) as well as his wife Dr. Kate Murry (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). This leads to gossiping among peers and bullying by classmates. The Murry family endures as best they can until three celestial visitors – Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) – come to help. Asking what appears to be the impossible, Meg, Charles Wallace, and a classmate Calvin O’Keefe (Levi Miller) seek to find Dr. Murry, who has been missing for the last four years.
Traveling through time and space by a process called tesseract to Uriel, a planet billions of light years away, the three children join Mrs. Whatsit, a spunky, form-changing character who interacts well with the children; Mrs. Who, a great linguist who recites insightful quotes when she cannot find her own words; and Mrs. Which, the most omniscient of the group. After arriving in Uriel, each child is made aware of their special talents. Calvin, a supportive, fearless boy whose agape love for Meg, is quite remarkable to watch as he unfolds. Charles Wallace, a telepathic genius with an extensive vocabulary, is extremely poised for his tender age of five. And Meg is a mathematic wiz, who, like many adolescent girls feels awkward about her appearance due to her curly, brown hair and large spectacles.
As the search begins for Meg’s father, the children encounter an evil darkness cast by the “It,” who rules from its planet called Camazotz. The It’s purpose is to cast confusion, jealousy, anger, fear, and pain throughout the world. Realizing that her father has been taken by this entity, Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin embark on an unforgettable journey.
The cinematography and use of color in this film is superb. From the use of aerial photography to the use of cinemagraphs, DuVernay takes the audience on a magical journey. More importantly, slogans such as “Be a Warrior,” and encouraging teaching moments that acknowledge “all hair is beautiful,” and to “embrace your faults,” should resonate well with both young girls and boys of all colors, backgrounds, and religions. Although L’Engle’s strong beliefs in the Christian faith didn’t rear as strongly in the movie as it did in her book, DuVernay does an excellent job of taking a timeless classic and turning it into a stunning re-adaptation.
I am Diana of Themyscira daughter of Hippolyta Queen of the Amazons!
As a unabashed fan of superhero/comic book films, I’ve had much to enjoy in my lifetime; the X-Men films, Nolan’s Batman movies, 300, Marvel studios slate. But there’s been one pretty notable absence all these years; a comic book film centered on a female lead. Which is why the announcement of a movie version of Wonder Woman and having it directed by a woman director Patty Jenkins (who’s last movie Monster won Charlize Theron the Oscar for Best Actress) was one for hopes, but also fears. Warner Brothers’ record for adapting DC Comics has been mixed over the years. What if the studio screwed up with Wonder Woman as they did with Suicide Squad and Batman Vs. Superman? Not only would it be unbearably painful to see such a beloved icon treated poorly, but it would also be harmful to the cause of big budget films starring women in general.
Gal Gadot and Chris Pine (Photo credit: Warner Bros.)
Well, I have good news for you; not only did Patty Jenkins not screw up with Wonder Woman, she hit it out of the park. Like Captain America – First Avenger what we see here is primarily a long flashback telling the story of how the hero(ine) came to be in our modern world. We begin with her childhood on the hidden island of Themyscira, peopled with such unforgettable figures as Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson of Rushmore and Gladiator) and her aunt the great general Antiope (Robin Wright of House of Cards). The Amazons live in a women’s only island of beautiful scenery, millennial old code of honor, and martial training. But one day an outsider and the first man Diana ever sees, Captain Trevor (Chris Pine of Star Trek in his most charming role yet), accidentally breaks through and on his heels are an army of soldiers with guns. Paradise has now been touched by man and with it comes bloodshed and heartache.
The impressive cast also sports David Thewlis (Harry Potter, The Theory of Everything) Said Thagmaoui (Three Kings, Conan the Barbarian), Lucy Davis (Shaun of the Dead), Danny Huston (Children of Men, 21 Grams), and more. But the heart and soul has to be Diana herself. I admit I was skeptical when Israeli born newcomer Gal Gadot was cast in the role; she certainly looked the part but could she act I wondered? Well, it turns out she can. My god, she can. When she’s on screen her every move and gesture…she IS Diana embodying the part more than anyone else has. At the first sight of her in running into battle in her iconic uniform the audience cheered.
And quite a battle it was! Wonder Woman in the original comics began with Diana leaving her island home during WWII, but the movie pushes it into WWI and it’s actually a brilliant artistic choice. A main theme of the film is Ares and mankind’s dangerous infatuation with war and what better illustration of the senselessness of humanity’s battles than the notorious meat grinder that was the first World War? While there’s a great deal of ‘fish out of water’ humor when Diana first leaves Themyscria for the outside world, there’s a deeper conflict of Diana’s high ideals coming into contact with humanity and all its darkness. Hippolyta flat tells out her daughter, that humans don’t deserve her and it’s hard to argue with it. But it’s not about ‘deserve’ and Diana, beautiful, brave, compassionate, and impossibly strong, is the big screen heroine we’ve all been yearning for a very VERY long time.
Thursday, May 25th is National Wine Day! Celebrated every year it’s an excuse (like you really needed one), to have a glass or two of your favorite vintage. It also seems like an appropriate time to consider wine on cinema.
An Autumn Tale(1998) This French film is directed by Erich Rohmer (My Night at Maud’s, Triple Agent) and is the fourth of Tales of Four Seasons cinema quartet. Magali (Beatrice Romand) is a forty-something widowed winemaker. Magali loves her work but has been lonely since her husband’s death and so her two best friends secretly scheme to find a husband for her. It won the Golden Osella Prize for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival as was selected as the Best Foreign Language Film by the National Society of Film Critics.
Mondovino(2004) Written and directed by Jonathon Nossiter (a former sommelier from New York’s Balthazar), this documentary examines the impact of globalization on the world’s different wine regions. In competition are the ambitions of giant multinational wine producers like Robert Mondavi with the interests of single estate wineries who pride themselves on wines with individual character. Nossiter also explores the impact of critics like Robert Parker on determining an international ‘style’ of wine. Along the way Nossiter visits wineries in France, Italy, California, and Brazil. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival as well as a Cesar Award and holds a 70% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Sideways(2004) Alexander Payne (Election, Nebraska,) directed and co-wrote this adaption of the Rex Pickett’s novel by the same name. Depressed teacher and would be writer Miles Raymond (the one and only Paul Giamatti) and his best friend, Hollywood Has Been Jack Cole (Thomas Haden Church in the role that launched his career comeback) take a week-long trip to Santa Barbara’s wine country to celebrate Jack’s upcoming wedding. Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and Virginia Madsen (Ghosts of Mississippi, The Prairie Home Companion) make memorable appearances as well. It was a runaway critical and commercial success, grossing over a $100 million on a $16 million dollar budget. Sideways won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for four other awards including Best Picture.
Bottle Shock (2008) This comedic drama directed by Randall Miller is based on the notorious 1976 wine competition termed the Judgment of Paris when California wine defeated French wine in a blind taste test. These results sent shock waves through the industry, putting Californian wine on the map and signaling the downfall of French domination of the wine industry with new contenders coming from all corners of the world. Bill Pullman and Chris Pine play a father-son team of winemakers but the MVP of the team is the late great Alan Rickman as British wine snob Steven Spurrier.
Red Obsession (2013) This Australian documentary was narrated by Russell Crowe and co-directed by David Roach and Warwick Ross. It takes viewers on a journey from China to Bordeaux as it examines the trends of the global wine industry interviewing winemakers, wine critics, and wine lovers. It won the AACTA awards for Best Documentary and Best Direction in a Documentary and currently holds a 100% fresh rating on the Tomatometer.
I’ve been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation. But not my boys. Not anymore.
Divorced father Toby (Chris Pine) and his ex-convict brother Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) begin a series of bank robberies in an attempt to save the family ranch. Texas Rangers Marcus Hamilton (the always superb Jeff Bridges) and half Mexican, half Native American Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the chase. It’s a simple enough set-up but director David McKenzie (The Last Great Wilderness, Asylum) has some fun with it anyway. (One robbery goes awry because a bank customer is carrying and fires off a few rounds at the thieves as they try to flee.) McKenzie also brings out unexpected nuances in the characters. Pine delivers his best performance yet and Foster’s a revelation.
Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham
Poverty itself is a character in Hell or High Water and racial tensions are never far below the surface in the West Texas communities we see here. Marcus mercilessly ribs Alberto over his heritage and in a sequence at an Indian casino, we learn that the true meaning of Comanche is “enemy to everyone.” In this land where the cowpoke legend lives on, a number of citizens are more inclined to side with the outlaws rather than the Marshalls; especially given their targets are the same banks who’ve been bleeding the community dry for years. Viewers feel this way as well and can’t help rooting for Toby and Tanner too – at least at first. McKenzie has a habit of subverting people’s expectations in films and he does so here as well, as the true cost of the Howard boys crimes becomes clear. With Hell or High Water McKenzie gives us a take an on the classical Western that both honors the traditional mythos and yet still seems fresh.
Photos courtesy of CBS Films Top: Ben Foster and Chris Pine