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Washington Jewish Film Festival

Posted on November 29, 2011 at 4:49 pm

One of the highlights of the movie-going year is the Washington Jewish Film Festival and this year’s line-up is spectacular.  As usual, the range of subjects and genres and countries is astonishingly varied and this year that also includes gender, with 19 of the film directed by women and a special award for DC-based filmmaker Aviva Kempner (Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg).

Some of this year’s highlights include:

“The Kissinger Sage: Walter and Henry, Two Brothers from Fuerth” For the first time the former Secretary of State and his “younger, richer brother” agreed to talk about their lives as Jewish children in Germany, their flight from the Nazis, and their experiences in America.  They return to the town that was their home and share personal mementos and photographs.

“Dolphin Boy” A teenager from an Arab village is traumatized by a brutal attack by his classmates and can no longer speak.  This documentary covers his therapy with dolphins and his struggle for healing.

“Reuniting the Rubins” British actor Timothy Spall (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) is an uptight lawyer whose mother (onetime Bond girl Honor Blackman) blackmails him into a reunion with his estranged children, including a hard-charging capitalist, an environmental activist, and a rabbi.

“Standing Silent” This timely story of a courageous Orthodox man who insisted on going public with evidence of sexual abuse in the Orthodox community demonstrates that victims can become survivors if they are given a voice.

“Mahler on the Couch” Tom Lehrer famously and hilariously sang of Alma Mahler and her romances with three of the most important men of the early 20th century.  This is a drama about Alma’s affair with architect Walter Gropius while she was married to composer Gustav Mahler and her treatment by Sigmund Freud.

Check out the WJFF schedule!

 

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Festivals

Female Critics Discuss Actress Nudity

Posted on November 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Three new films feature nude scenes with three young actresses not thought of as bombshells or sex symbols.  Kristen Stewart shows a bit of PG-13-rated skin in the latest”Twilight” movie, but in the R-rated “Melancholia” and the NC-17-rated “Shame” Kirsten Dunst and Carey Mulligan show full frontal nudity.  The scenes where they appear naked are not intended to be erotic but to make a statement about character and the storyline.  On Reel Women, critic Thelma Adams and some of her female colleagues discuss the meaning of nude scenes in the context of the films and as a career move.  Adams is perceptive and insightful:

Why does Mulligan, an Oscar nominee for An Education, feel compelled to take it off, all off? Partially, it would seem, to shed that chilly BBC debutante image: Look, it’s a Bennet sister out of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice without the empire-waist period gown to hide behind!

But nudity is only brave, really brave, in context. There has to be a characterization that stands or falls, has a reason for being, outside of the nudity….

Revealing nudity, or concealing it, works best if it’s integral to the story. Nothing seems faker than a moment of soft-lit Playboy nudity in an otherwise gritty, realistic movie. Nakedness should peel back pretense, not encourage it. And it shouldn’t throw the audience, gaping, out of the narrative. That’s the case for both Dunst and Stewart in their respective films, but not for Mulligan.

 

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Critics Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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The Next Voice You Hear

Posted on November 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

B
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: NR
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Discussion of wartime weapons of mass desctruction
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 1950
Date Released to DVD: November 28, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B003916I1C

I was pleased to see that Turner Classic Movies will be showing “The Next Voice You Hear” this afternoon at 2:30 Eastern.  It’s a sweet little film with a timely message.  It was made in 1950, when the primary technology for delivering news and entertainment to American homes was still radio and the primary concern of American families in the post-WWII era was the threat of the Cold War.

One night there is an unusual announcement on the radio.  “The next voice you hear” will be the voice of God.  Throughout the world each listener (except, oddly, those behind the Iron Curtain) hears the Voice in his and her own language.  The story focuses on a typical American family, Joe and Mary Smith, with a young son and another baby coming soon.  Joe is played by James Whitmore and Mary is played by future First Lady Nancy Davis, who would soon be Nancy Reagan.  We in the audience never hear the Voice.  We just see how it affects the Smiths and the other listeners.  At first, people are very unsettled and frightened by God’s messages, but it becomes clear that His message is one of hope and peace.

Yes, it’s old-fashioned and corny. Yes, the first names of the Smiths are intentionally selected to make them even more symbolic. But it is a good film for families and Sunday School classes to to watch together and discuss how God’s timeless message might be delivered via today’s technology.

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DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Neglected gem Spiritual films
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Your Week with Marilyn — Monroe’s Best Films

Posted on November 27, 2011 at 9:37 pm

“My Week With Marilyn” is a new film based on the memoirs by Colin Clark about his time as a third assistant director (basically a gofer) on the set of a movie she made in England with Sir Laurence Olivier.  You can have your own week with Marilyn Monroe, the most popular sex symbol in movie history, by watching some of her films.  I recommend:

 

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  Monroe plays a gold-digging showgirl in this colorful and energetic musical.  Her signature song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” inspired Madonna’s “Material Girl” video.

Some Like It Hot The American Film Institute’s pick for the funniest American movie of all time is Billy Wilder’s gender-bending masterpiece about two male musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) who disguise themselves as women and join an all-female band so they can hide from mobsters.  Monroe plays the band’s lead singer who has a weakness for saxophone players.  It gets better and funnier every time you see it.

Let’s Make Love Yves Montand plays one of the wealthiest and most successful men in the world.  When he hears that a small off-Broadway musical satiric revue makes fun of him, he goes to the theater to complain.  But the director thinks he has shown up to audition and when he sees Monroe (in sheer practice tights and leotard) is in the cast, he pretends to be an actor.  She sings a sizzling version of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”

Bus Stop Many people think Monroe’s best performance as an actress is in this poignant story of a cowboy in love with a bar girl.  She sings a heartbreakingly (intentionally) trashy “That Old Black Magic.”

The Seven Year Itch Monroe’s most iconic pose comes from this film about an innocent flirtation between a man who stays in New York while his family is on vacation and his free-spirited upstairs neighbor.

The Prince and the Showgirl When Monroe wanted to be taken more seriously as an actress she formed a production company to finance this film, co-starring and directed by Sir Laurence Olivier.  It is more interesting to watch to compare their incompatible acting styles than it is to try to care about the slight story, but definitely worth seeing if you plan to watch “My Week With Marilyn.”

How to Marry a Millionaire Monroe co-stars with Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable in this romantic comedy about three blonde models with a plan to find wealthy husbands.

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