“This Is Where I Leave You” — Chutzpah v. Repression

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Jane Fonda and Tina Fey, two comic masterminds in one film? Yes, please! 9 to 5, which Ms. magazine featured on its January cover in 1981, remains one of my favorite comedies. Fonda as the naïve, buttoned-up secretary Judy, learns how to ovary-up from her feisty coworkers Violet (Lily Tomlin) and Doralee (Dolly Parton). In real […]

Lost in a Maze of Males

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The Maze Runner, the new post-apocalyptic film based on James Dashner’s 2009 book, has a strong lead female and a diverse cast in terms of race (what a nice change from the too-white Hunger Games!). But, when I mention “a strong lead female,” I literally mean “a”—yes, as in one—one female among a gaggle of adolescent […]

“Boyhood” Is Also a Film About Motherhood

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Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood has been widely praised for its innovative approach and its ability to handle a sweeping topic (growing up) largely without sentimentality. The movie is filmed over the course of 12 years, using the same cast and whatever cultural backdrop was handy in Texas at the annual time of filming. For instance, […]

“The Giver” Delivers Powerful Pro-Choice Message in Slick, IKEA Package

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Translating dystopian texts to the screen is tricky business, as such texts rely so much on the reader’s perception of what a truly dystopian society would look and feel like. To some, the visuals of The Giver might seem ideal: cookie-cutter houses filled with sparse, functional, IKEA-like furnishings and a society that also has a straight-lined, minimalist, […]

Lucy Is No Louise: Skip This Action-Packed Fail and Re-watch Thelma and Louise Instead

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Sure, Scarlett Johansson is a great actor. Alas, her lead role in Lucy does not do her justice. The premise of the film—that we only use 10 percent of our brains—is a faulty one and caused quite an angry buzzing across the Internet (as here and here) even before the film’s official release. The direction […]

A Quintuple F for Obvious Child (And That’s Good, Not Bad)

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The new film Obvious Child is informed by F-words of all sorts. It’s funny and feminist. It’s about friendship and forgiveness. It contains jokes about flatulence. It’s radically important for so many reasons, not least among them that “seeing an abortion in a negative light in a movie makes viewers less likely to support abortion […]

Dragon 2: DreamWorks Could Use Some Training in Racial Stereotyping

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Diversity in animation is often evident via the fanciful creatures that populate such stories. Big green ogres, cutesy blue smurfs, jocular bright-yellow minions. In How to Train Your Dragon 2 dragons are the diverse creatures of choice, ranging from the uber-spikey untrainable babies, to the salamander-like faithful Toothless, to the menacing mastadonesque alpha-dragon. The humans that […]

The Fault in Our Stars: Our Love Affair with Romance and Feminism

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Pain demands to be felt. So goes one of the wise lines from John Green’s bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars. The line is prominently featured in the movie of the same title—and rightfully so, given that this dictum on the necessity of feeling pain is a key reason the story is so compelling. […]

The Political Romance of Belle

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Before making the film Belle, screenwriter Misan Sagay  first saw the painting—an 18th-century portrait of Lady Elizabeth Murray with Dido Elizabeth Belle alongside her—and noticed a striking difference from other paintings of the era depicting black subjects. In this painting, the woman of color, Belle, is positioned somewhat as an equal, not bowed or stooping […]

Maleficent: Finally, Disney Gives us a Positive Witch/Mother

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Women’s stories have often been twisted, stolen, and locked away, often in iron-clad phallocentric cages. This has led to benevolent witches turning wicked, powerful woman being framed as bitches, midwives cast as baby-killers, queens/princesses truncated into damsels in distress and, perhaps most pervasively, the demonization/murder of mothers and motherhood. To hide this ironclad prison house […]