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5 Reasons Why TV Is Better for Women

All told, 2014 was not a bad year for women in film, a fact that’s sure to be reflected in upcoming awards nominations.

Reese Witherspoon and Mia Wasikowska blew us away in the travelogues “Wild” and “Tracks,” respectively. Patricia Arquette broke our hearts as the single mother in “Boyhood.” Julianne Moore channeled an Alzheimer’s-stricken professor in the haunting “Still Alice.” Tilda Swinton ruled the school in four films, as did Jessica Chastain. Ava DuVernay dazzled us with the Martin Luther King Jr biopic, “Selma.” Gillian Flynn adapted her bestselling novel Gone Girl for the big screen. Jenny Slate kept us rolling in “Obvious Child,” the funny-as-fuck “abortion comedy” written and directed by Gillian Robespierre. Lake Bell sent up adult women who talk like babies in “In a World,” which she wrote, starred in, and directed. Angelina Jolie directed “Unbroken,” the highly regarded portrait of Louis Zamperini. Amma Asante helmed the historical drama “Belle.” Gia Coppola (yes, Sofia’s niece and Francis’s granddaughter) made an admirable debut with her coming-of-ager, “Palo Alto.” With “Foxcatcher,” “Her,” and “Zero Dark Thirty” independent producer Megan Ellison continued to emerge as Hollywood’s most potent new weapon. And with the rise of girl-empowering Young Adult-centric films like “Divergent” and the “Hunger Games” films, young women were even recognized as a force to be reckoned with at the box office.

That said, despite a recent study revealing that men still dominate the small-screen landscape both on and off screen, even a great year for women in film pales in comparison to any year for women in television. Sure, we could argue that’s because TV is viewed as a domestic medium, harkening back to when ladies allegedly lounged at home with their shows while husbands earned the bacon. But here are five more-evolved reasons why TV is better for women. Continue Reading →

The Alchemy of ‘Still Alice’

Without Julianne Moore, “Still Alice” might not be much of a film. This is not to say the adaptation of Lisa Genova’s 2007 novel about a fifty-year-old woman stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is otherwise mediocre, although it is so unobtrusively constructed that its virtues may be overlooked. But because it focuses on the perspective of a person with Alzheimer’s rather than on the perspective of her caregivers, a uniquely gifted actor is required in the titular role. Who but Moore, with her radiant fusion of fortitude and empathy, could soldier us through a narrative whose unhappy ending is as inevitable as that of the Titanic?

Initially, Alice Howland seems like she has it all. A celebrated Columbia University linguistics professor, she is happily married to fellow academic John (an unusually muted Alec Baldwin), and the couple enjoy their three grown children as well as their well-appointed Long Island beach house and NYC brownstone. If she is a tad thorny when things don’t go her way – her youngest daughter, Lydia (Kristen Stewart), an aspiring actor, bears the brunt of her mother’s tenacity – it’s nothing extraordinary in a modern Type A woman. But when Alice can no longer write off her memory loss and growing confusion as mere middle-aged malaise (read: menopause side effects), her worst fears are outstripped: She is diagnosed with a rare strain of Alzheimer’s that is inherited and can be transmitted. “I wish I had cancer,” she weeps, and although some might take umbrage with her disease comparison-shopping, we understand what she means. Especially in her line of work, she does not know who she will be without her formidable brain. Continue Reading →

Neither Dick Flick nor Chick Flick: ‘Wild’

At heart, Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s wildly popular memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, is a mother-daughter love story. Cheryl and her mom, Bobbi, attended college at the same time, and before the two got a chance to resolve their deeply loving, deeply charged dynamic (or even receive their degrees), Bobbi died of breast cancer – leaving Cheryl to feel she had failed in what she perceived as her job to protect her mom. It’s no wonder that the younger woman ruined her marriage, became addicted to heroin, and, almost secondarily, forced herself to walk 1,100 miles of desert and mountain land. She had a ghost to exorcise, and she exorcised it so beautifully that along the way she spawned a best-selling memoir – and, by extension, a movie produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon in the titular role. As Witherspoon has joked, this may be the first film ever to star a woman who has no money, no man, no parents, no job, and no opportunities but still boast a happy ending.

The overall pedigree of “Wild” is both impressive and a little surprising. Of course the story has flinty Reese and her strong jaw written all over it, and Laura Dern’s raw grace makes perfect sense for the character of Bobbi. Less intuitive is louche British novelist Nick Hornby as screenwriter, with direction provided by Jean-Marc Vallée, who helmed last year’s sinewy AIDS drama, “Dallas Buyers Club.” Valée also co-edited this film under the pseudonym John Mac McMurphy (as he did “Dallas Buyers Club”), and that’s the most important credit at hand. This is a film that’s really all about the editing. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy