Ebertfest 2019

Posted on April 16, 2019 at 10:08 am

Copyright 2019 Ebertfest

The 21st Ebertfest (formerly Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival) was one of the all-time best. I was honored to be included on the panel of women critics and filmmakers discussing the opportunities and portrayals of women. It was a thrill to share the panel with so many women I admire, including “Bound” stars Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, Alliance of Women Film Journalists founder and director Jennifer Merin, Sony Classics’ Michael Barker, Stephen Apkon, actress/critic Carla Renata (known as The Curvy Critic), and writer/director/producer Rita Coburn, who was at the festival to present her marvelous documentary about Maya Angelou.

I was also invited to do the Q&A following one of my favorite films, “Rachel Getting Married.”

The festival closed with “Sideways,” and our discussion afterward included an appearance from Virginia Madsen, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role.

Join us next April in Champaign/Urbana!

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Behind the Scenes Festivals Gender and Diversity

How Does a Critic Watch A Movie?

Posted on February 26, 2019 at 8:00 am

If you’ve ever wondered how a movie critic finds things in a movie you’ve missed (or misses things you think are significant) take a look at this good introduction by Allie Volpe about how a critic watches a movie.

For example:

Pay attention to the whole frame
One of freelance critic Candice Frederick’s favorite scenes in the heist thriller Widows features a long, unbroken shot where Colin Farrell’s politician character and his campaign manager, played by Molly Kunz, are in a heated discussion in a car. The viewer doesn’t see their faces but instead watches as the camera captures the changing landscape around the car. “We don’t see them because the director wants us to look around,” Frederick says. “These moments when you’re not focused on the characters’ faces and you think it’s downtime — in that scene, there’s so much being said. It really implores you to watch the screen, because, in addition to that, there’s a whole bunch of things happening on the street that we’re supposed to be looking at.” Don’t miss an opportunity to take in some plot development just because the camera isn’t focused on the stars.

And this one is good advice for looking at anything:

Question everything
Take a curious approach to all aspects of the story, from characters to setting. Frederick likes to begin with believability, even in fantastical settings. “Thinking from your own experience, would someone react like that? Is that real?” she says. “Ask questions about what you’re being presented, and ask whether you can see humans talking to other humans in that way.”

Consider alternative scenarios, and question whether the story could’ve ended a different way. This forces you to think critically and confront the things you thought were weak or unrealistic. “Say, why did such-and-such happen? Or why did this happen instead of that?” Frederick says. “Ask questions. Talk about it afterward.” You don’t necessarily need to arrive at the answers — just asking is enough to get you into a more critical frame of mind. And the more you do it, the easier it will be at the next movie you see, and the next one after that.

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Critics Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Join Me (Virtually) To Watch the Oscars!

Posted on February 23, 2019 at 6:07 pm

What’s more fun than watching the Oscars? Watching it with a bunch of cool movie critics! My colleagues and I will be chatting about the show and the awards in real time, and you can submit questions or comments. Hey, they don’t have a host, so you’ll need us!

You can join the conversation two ways:

1) click on the link
2) download the Goodtalk app, find “The Oscars” discussion on the main page

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Awards Critics Media Appearances

The Apartment — Without Lemmon and MacLaine

Posted on January 4, 2019 at 10:18 pm

This fascinating video essay shows us what the Oscar-winning Billy Wilder film “The Apartment” would look like without the actors, revealing the role that the setting plays in telling the story.  After all, that is the name of the film.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Rotten Tomatoes Welcomes More Diverse Critics

Posted on August 30, 2018 at 10:18 am

Rotten Tomatoes has made a very important step forward in promoting diversity with an announcement about its revised policy for accepting critics. As a critic who has been on Rotten Tomatoes almost since it began, I am delighted.

Copyright Rotten Tomatoes 2018

In revamping our Critics Criteria, we sought to bring the criteria into better alignment with the way media works today, to promote the inclusion of more voices that reflect the varied groups of people who consume entertainment, and to maintain the high standards we’ve always set for inclusion in the group of Tomatometer-approved critics.

When assessing applications from those wishing to be a Tomatometer-approved critic, or a Tomatometer-approved publication, we now take into consideration four key values as well as a revised set of eligibility requirements. These values are Insight, Audience, Quality, and Dedication, and you can find a full breakdown of each value here.

Movie critics in general, including those on Rotten Tomatoes, are overwhelmingly white males. Filmmakers like Meryl Streep and Brie Larson have complained that this lack of diversity does not fairly represent the experiences and perspectives of movie audiences. Rotten Tomatoes’ revised criteria reflect not just outreach to diverse voices but a thoughtful reassessment based on the wider range of platforms for criticism, including podcasts and videos. They make their commitment clear with a link in the announcement to invite other critics to apply.

This comes just after Chaz Ebert announced on Rogerebert.com its new gender-balanced roster of critics, five men and five women, including POCs, with more as contributors. I am very proud to be a part of this group, and to be the site’s first female assistant editor, and very happy to see critics as diverse as our readers.

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Critics Gender and Diversity GLBTQ and Diversity Race and Diversity
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