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.
International Women’s Day is March 8th. In the spirit of the occasion, it seems appropriate to consider watching a movie with a woman director. Sadly, at present, this is a limited field, nevertheless we have found five worthy contenders and hope to see far, FAR more in the future.
The Piano (1993) Written and directed by New Zealand’s own Jane Campion, this romantic drama starring Holly Hunter as a mute piano player and widowed mother who becomes entangled in a convoluted love triangle with Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel. It made over $140 million worldwide on a seven million dollar budget, was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three; Best Actress for Holly Hunter, Best Supporting Actress for Anna Paquin, and Best Original Screenplay for Campion. Campion also became the first and thus far only woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. She would later go on to direct the award winning romantic drama Bright Star, as well as write and direct the TV mystery/drama series Top Of the Lake starring Elisabeth Moss in a role that’s won her a Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award.
Monsoon Wedding (2001) Directed by Indian born Mira Nair this romantic comedy details various entanglements and dramas taking place during a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding in Delhi. Along the way we are treated to song and dance numbers as well as a number of observations about life in Modern 21st Century India and Punjabi culture. The movie was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival making Nair only the second Indian to win in that category. Nair would go on to direct such films as The Namesake (nominated for a Gotham Award and Independent Spirit Award), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (for which Nair won The Bridge, The German Film Award for Peace), and Queen of Katwe (nominated for four NAACP Image Awards and Winner of Best Family Film by Women Film Critics Circle.)
Lost In Translation (2003) Written and directed by Sofia Coppola (daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola), this bittersweet comedy starring Bill Murray (in a role that many considered to be his best work to date and which launched a career renaissance for him) as a washed up movie star who connects with young, unhappy, newlywed Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson in her breakout role). The movie was a huge breakout success earning over a $100 million on a four million dollar budget. Johannson and Murray each received BAFTA Awards. The film garnered four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. Coppola actually won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Sofia would later become the first American woman to win the Golden Lion the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival for 2010’s Somewhere which she also wrote and directed.
The Hurt Locker (2009) Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Strange Days). This war thriller about an Iraqi bomb squad starring Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty is one of the most suspenseful and grittiest war movies ever made with an incredible emphasis on the psychological toll of combat. It’s so intense and realistic you can almost taste sand in your mouth during one particular sequence. It was universally acclaimed by critics and went on to win six Academy Awards including Best Picture. Bigelow won the award for Best Director and as of this date The Hurt Locker remains the first movie directed by a woman to win either Best Director or Best Picture. Bigelow would go on to direct Zero Dark Thirty which would be nominated for five Oscar awards including Best Picture.
Selma (2014) Directed by Ava DuVernay. While DuVernay was the first African American woman to win the Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Director for her feature film Middle of Nowhere, it was this historical drama starring David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. based on the real life voting marches from Selma to Montgomery,that helped her truly rise to prominence. With Selma, DuVernay became the first African American woman to be nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Director as well as the black female director to have her film nominated by the Academy for Best Picture. In 2017, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for her film 13th examining race and mass incarceration in the U.S. She’s currently working on directing on an adaption of A Wrinkle in Time for Disney with a budget exceeding $100 million making DuVernay the first black woman to direct a live action film with a budget of such size.
Pink was the color of the day at the Women’s March on D.C. However, there was also purple, and rainbow, and red and white, and black and white. Organizers were expecting 250,000; it is estimated that a million people showed up for the march.
Women made up the majority of the audience, but there were a lot more men than expected. And tons of kids. There were people in wheelchairs, pregnant women, and people of all color and nationalities.
According to the organizers, the march “held on the first day of the new presidential administration, the Women’s March on Washington aims to send a message to all levels of government and the incoming administration: that we stand together in solidarity and expect elected leaders to act to protect the rights of women, their families and their communities.”
Ridership on Metro exceeded expectations with trains running frequently and with few glitches. Trains were crowded, but the majority of riders made it to the march on time and there was a feeling of euphoria and good will. Riders cheered as they got on the train and as they got off. People who heeded the advice to purchase their Metro cards ahead of time were rewarded as they missed the long lines to purchase cards.
The station manager at L’Enfant Plaza even got into the act as he directed riders with a megaphone to go to the left or the right – and even did a little dance.
Crowds poured out of the metro station onto the streets of D.C. While there were no signs or people directing traffic, people just went with the flow – and stopped when they could go no further.
By 10 a.m., the crowds were well past Sixth Street, NW and Independence Avenue. Jumbotrons were located at the corners at Fourth and Independence and at other locations. It was standing room only.
All kinds of signs dotted the landscape. Some were familiar, like ‘Feminists Fight Back,’ ‘I’m with her’ and ‘Protect our Future-Climate Change is real.’ Others were more off-color, such as, ‘My Pussy Isn’t Up for Grabs,’ ‘There You Have It Folks, an Actual Croc of Shit.’
And then some signs were just downright clever, like ‘You Can’t Comb Over Sexism.’ Children lent their own voices with signs saying, ‘You Break my Heart’ and ‘Though She May be Little, She is Fierce.’
People came from all over the world. Two women from Alabama were staying in Alexandria, and said that there was a school group staying in the same hotel who had been there for the inauguration, having booked it a year ago. “I think that if it wasn’t for the buses, there would have been even fewer people at the inauguration,” she said.
A group of grammar school friends from Connecticut came together to participate in the historic event. Berkeley students cheered when Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, mentioned the university in her comments. Most of the states designated meeting places for their constituents to come together at the beginning of the march. Others held receptions at the Capitol after the rally.
The crowd welcomed well-known speakers, such as Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Melissa Harris-Perry, Michael Moore, Amanda Nguyen and Van Jones. Performers included Janelle Monae Maxwell, Angelique Kidjo, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Indigo Girls, MC Lyte, Samantha Ronson, Toshi Reagon, Emily Wells, DJ Rekha, St. Beauty, Beverly Bond, Alia Sharif, DJ Remarkable, Amber Coffman, and Climbing PoeTree. Madonna and Ashley Keyes were last-minute performers. A group of largely female senators and other politicians took the stage. Among them were Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY; Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO.; newly elected senators Kamala Harris, D-CA; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. was also there but did not speak.
In order to satisfy the many competing coalitions, the speaker list included over 40 speakers, causing the rally to go on way too long.Instead of the march starting at 1:15 p.m., as originally planned, the rally continued until past 2:30 p.m. Crowds were packed… so tightly that one woman had a panic attack and had to hold onto a wall at the American Air and Space Museum. A pregnant woman tried to move through the crowd to get to the bathroom. While there were tons of porta potties along the mall and on Independence Street, most of the crowd couldn’t get to them. The American Air and Space Museum had plenty of bathrooms, but they required visitors to go through security, which made the wait at least an hour long.
Nancy Iovino, Gale Curcio, Carol Martens Price, Jody Zeman, Susan Richards and Lindsay Richards
The March was originally planned to proceed west on Independence Avenue SW from Third Street SW, to Fourteenth Street SW, then turn north on Fourteenth Street SW to Constitution Avenue NW, continue west on Constitution Avenue NW to Seventeenth Street NW, and conclude near the Ellipse and Washington Monument. There were so many people, however, that actually marching proved to be impossible. Finally, around 2:30, one of the organizers said, “Go North!” And with that, the crowd started moving towards the mall towards the Washington Monument. The mall, which had been reserved for other protests, was half empty, making it easy for marchers to proceed.
Barricades along the mall, supposedly left over from the inauguration, occasionally tripped people up, but spirits remained high with chants of “Hell No, We Won’t Go” and “Say it loud, say it clear, migrants are welcome here.”
The group tried to get to the White House, but they were prevented to from getting near the premises. Metro continued to work well, getting people home until late in the evening. Some vandalism was reported, but it appears that they were caused by protests that were occurring concurrently with the women’s march.
Jon Favreau has become something of a Hollywood It Man (again) with recent films including the Iron Man movies and 2014’s raw Chef. With Disney’s new release The Jungle Book, he will undoubtedly add another hit to this list. In this latest directorial effort, Favreau brings us the familiar story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a young boy orphaned in the jungle as just a baby, saved from the savagery of the elements by Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), a panther with his best interests at heart. Mowgli spends his childhood living comfortably as just another pup in a wolf pack, being taught the code of the pack and the essentials of survival.
One of these lessons is co-existing all manner of species, everything from alligators to peacocks to water buffalo. This “man cub” is surprisingly successful at this comingling, with the exception of a particularly nasty Bengal tiger, the intimidating Shere Khan (voiced by a perfect Idris Elba, whom I love, even when his character is this evil). Despite the passing of several years, Shere Khan harbors a deep grudge against our young protagonist, and goes to great and sad lengths to even a perceived score. Ultimately, Mowgli must leave his pack and all that he knows.
In the adventures that follow, Mowgli encounters a menagerie of new friends and foes as he makes his way through uncharted (figurative and literal) terrain. This allows Disney to surprise us with an array of celebrity voices, everyone from Bill Murray as the bumbling bear Baloo to Scarlett Johansson as a sinister reptile. All of the voices are well done here, but it’s Bill Murray and Christopher Walken – as King Louie, a power-hungry orangutan – who really shine. Baloo’s character almost seems made for Murray, pairing his lackadaisical attitude with an inexorable charm. He gets all of the laughs of the film and he deserves them.
But the true star of this version is the lush, deeply-hued animation. When Mowgli glides through thick jungle canopy, we can almost feel the humidity hanging on our skin. When he and Baloo playfully splash each other in the river, or when he runs his hands through his wolf mother’s fur, there’s no need to suspend disbelief. It’s as if they are together, that the entire film’s scenery is indeed that lush and dramatic, that flames lapping at tree branches might burn. While in hindsight you recognize these all as computer-generated images, you won’t think a thing of it in the moment. It’s all that vivid.
Which is also why younger children will find this a scary film to watch, particularly in IMAX 3D (as we viewed it). The speed with which the dark action unfurls does not lend itself to such grand projection; it was almost as if our eyes had trouble keeping pace. The callous and intimidating Shere Khan would be so on a flat screen TV – now imagine him being 50 feet tall. At times, it was just too intense.
But if you’ve a soft spot for the epic and the nostalgic, and dark, scary scenes don’t rattle you, you will appreciate this film and the rich world Favreau has created. Enjoy the journey.
Responsible for such modern classics as Fargoand The Big Lebowski, Joel and Ethan Coen need little introduction. With a handful of Oscars and over a dozen highly-praised works behind them, the Coen brothers are well-versed in crafting thoughtful, multi-layered entertainment. Sure to please Coen fans and film buffs alike is their latest endeavor, Hail, Caesar!, which premieres this weekend.
Opening in a confessional booth, Hail, Caesar!follows movie studio fixer, Eddie Mannix, over the course of a day as he navigates through problems on-set and off. On this specific day, Mannix finds himself preoccupied with tracking down film star Baird Whitlock, who has been kidnapped by a group called The Future. Mannix must round up the $100,000 ransom demanded from Whitlock’s kidnappers, all the while keeping tabloid journalists at bay, appeasing irksome actors and directors, and struggling to hide his smoking habit from his wife.
Mannix is played by the versatile Josh Brolin, who shines here as the well-intentioned studio exec with too much on his plate. Most of the film is dominated by Brolin, who pulls off his character with aplomb. Playing the rather daft Baird Whitlock is George Clooney, who spends much of the movie in wide-eyed bewilderment. Despite Clooney’s decent acting chops, it’s grating to see so much screen time devoted to one of Hollywood’s most overexposed actors.
It would have been far more gratifying to see more of the sweetly charming Hobie Doyle, played by Beautiful Creatures actor Alden Ehrenreich, or the hilarious director Laurence Laurentz, played by the affable Ralph Fiennes. Channing Tatum—who can’t seem to abandon his dancing roots, even here—is perfect as Burt Gurney, as is Tilda Swinton, who plays twin columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker. Other notable, but brief, appearances include Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, and Jonah Hill.
In addition to an excellent cast, Hail, Caesar! features stellar cinematography. With much humor and flair, Hail, Caesar! pays homage to Hollywood’s golden era, relying on the movie-within-a-movie format to recall the glitz and glamour of yesteryear. Indeed, the movie touches on film noir, and has many tightly choreographed, colorful scenes that are reminiscent of classic musicals. Though the movie-within-a-movie adds a lot of visual impact and interest, it does feel like the overall plotline gets a bit muddled as a result, which isn’t helped by the multiple storylines happening throughout the film.
An amalgamation of quirk and slapstick, Hail, Caesar! also feels like esoteric comedy at times. There are plenty of laughs to be had, yet some audiences might find themselves alienated from the humor. Though the Coen brothers manage to pull it off, some of the plotlines are also admittedly absurd. Though ambitious, the movie veers away from the mainstream perhaps too much to be embraced by broader audiences. Ultimately, however, Hail, Caesar! offers mild, light-hearted entertainment that is a refreshing reprieve from the perfunctory noise and excess offered by standard big-budget pictures currently in cinemas.
Hail, Caesar! opens nationwide on Friday, February 5, 2016.