In Theaters

When it comes to caring for the well-being of others, is total honesty necessarily the best policy? Isn’t it possible that there could be something to be said for “blissful ignorance?” But then isn’t it unconscionable to intentionally leave someone in the dark? These are thorny questions, much of which depends on one’s perspective, both individually and as part of a collective, issues that are among those addressed in the touching new comedy-drama, “The Farewell” (web site, trailer).

Grad student Billi Wang (Awkwafina) leads a full life In New York. While anxiously awaiting word on a fellowship application, the Chinese-born émigré and would-be writer spends much of her time trying to figure out how to make ends meet, a challenging task to be sure. And, when not looking for ways to keep her head above water financially, she visits with friends and her parents, Jian, her mother(Diana Lin), and Haiyan, her father(Tzi Ma), who brought the family to America more than 20 years ago when he landed a translator’s job.

As much as Billi tries to stay upbeat, however, she’s pressed to remain positive when she learns she’s been turned down for the fellowship. And, if that weren’t enough, she receives more bad news when she visits her parents. Word has come from China that the family matriarch, Billi’s grandmother, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou), has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Needless to say, Billi is devastated by the news. She adores her grandmother, particularly for the words of love and encouragement she routinely doles out during their frequent phone conversations.

But Billi is even more upset by some additional disturbing news: She learns from her parents that the extended family has no plans to inform Nai Nai about the severity of her condition. It’s a practice commonly employed by relatives with terminally ill patients in China, a belief based on the notion that there’s no point in unduly burdening the dying, particularly those in otherwise-good spirits. The thinking goes, “Why spoil their mood, especially if they have little time left?”

The family thus intends to keep Nai Nai in the dark, a plan that Billi has major problems with. Having spent most of her life in the U.S., she’s accustomed to Western ways, including full disclosure under such circumstances. Her protests are dismissed, though, her parents insisting that she’s not say a word to Nai Nai. They explain to her that their plan is the Eastern way, one that Nai Nai herself used when she learned that her husband was dying years earlier. Billi’s told that she’s expected to comply, given that all of the other members of the extended family have agreed to go along with it.

Billi also learns that the plan will get put to the test at an upcoming family gathering. Billi’s cousin, Hao Hao (Han Chen), who lives with his family in Japan, recently announced his engagement to his fiancée, Aiko (Aoi Mizuhara). They decided to marry in China, using the occasion as a front for a reunion that will likely double as a veiled farewell to Nai Nai. Everyone will be in on the secret except, of course, the guest of honor, who has been carefully conditioned to suspect nothing, leading her to believe that she’s in perfect health, that all of her recent medical test results came back as benign.

Unsure how she’ll hold up under this pretense, Billi has reservations about the cover story – and whether she’ll be able to go along with it. It’s something the family has anticipated, too. No sooner does Billi express her concerns when Jian and Haiyan tell her that they don’t want her to attend the reunion, fearful that she’ll crack under the pressure and let something slip. Given her love for Nai Nai, though, she disregards the request and makes the trip, albeit with great trepidation.

When Billi arrives in the family home of Changchun, everyone is astounded to see her. Haiyan, Jian, Hao Hao and Aiko, along with Billi’s uncle, Haibin (Yongbo Jiang), and grandma’s younger sister, Little Nai Nai (Lu Hong), are shocked when the unexpected guest arrives. They’re all worried enough that they will not be able to keep up a good front, but now they have concern that their Americanized relative will be able to keep mum, too.

The one most perplexed by this, of course, is Nai Nai herself. Unaware that anything is going on, she’s her usual cheerful self. She’s pleased that the whole family is together again, something that hasn’t happened for a long time. And she eagerly goes about planning the wedding reception, paying close attention to every last little detail. But, at the same time, she senses something may be amiss – the long faces and melancholy moods of her relatives suggest something is wrong, even if she can’t identify specifically what.

As this scenario plays out, the family experiences a number of close calls. Little Nai Nai and brothers Haiyan and Haibin do their best to run interference, but tricky situations arise often, placing the entire plan on the verge of falling apart. And, ironically enough, Billi is seldom the cause for concern in these instances. With the wedding approaching, the family’s subsequent departure pending and Nai Nai’s health showing signs of further deterioration, it remains to be seen whether everyone will be able to successfully hold things together. The desire to say a cloaked but heartfelt farewell comes into conflict with the need to say a proper goodbye, a challenge made more difficult by emotions that are continually being amped up.

Those of us accustomed to Western ways will likely side with Billi when it comes to her view of full disclosure. The sense of staring down the truth, no matter how difficult, is undoubtedly an outgrowth of the concept of rugged individualism, a trait especially ingrained in the American psyche. The idea of tackling challenges – even those likely doomed to futile failure – permeates our “take it like a man” culture, regardless of gender.

In the East, however, it’s often a different story. Despite living in the Westernized cultures of America and Japan, much of Billi’s family still clings to the old traditions, especially those that involve collective efforts. Indeed, as Billi’s Uncle Haibin observes, in the ways of the Old World, one’s life is not necessarily one’s own, that individuals are part of a collective in which everyone is expected to participate and cooperate for the well-being of the whole, even if such efforts go against one’s personal views and particularly if they contribute to the betterment of society or the well-being of others (especially family members).

So which view is right? Neither is inherently right nor wrong; they’re just different, each driven by their own sets of underlying beliefs.

No doubt adherents to each view will argue in favor of his or her perspective, and each would likely make good cases for the beliefs that underlie their outlooks. A Western individualist, for instance, might say that disclosure would provide a terminally ill patient with the knowledge to decide how he or she wants to spend whatever time is left, be it for getting affairs in order, saying what needs to be said to loved ones or even fulfilling items on a bucket list. At the same time, someone with an Eastern perspective who believes in sparing someone’s feelings might contend that such knowledge could be unduly deflating, plunging a dying individual prematurely into the depths of despair and ruining whatever time is left, perhaps even derailing any efforts aimed at fulfilling the foregoing goals.

By contrast, those who believe in shielding the infirmed might argue that this practice can help preserve the attitudes of those with a positive mood, a particularly valuable asset for those looking to make the most of their lives, regardless of whether or not they’re aware of how much time they have left. Indeed, some might say, “Why upset Grandma if she’s enjoying herself? Maybe her happiness will prolong her time with us.” However, the devil’s advocates out there could say this is akin to a cruel, patronizing joke, one in which condescension is the impetus behind such efforts. Such opponents might claim that this is essentially saying “There, there, don’t worry, you’re going to live forever anyway.”

As these examples illustrate, there are good arguments – and reservations – on both sides, and each have their own particular validity. We should remember, though, that the affected individual has his or her own say in the matter as well. One need only look to Nai Nai’s belief in her perfect health to see how it not only affects her attitude, but also her physical constitution. For someone with Stage 4 lung cancer, she certainly seems remarkably vital, a result that undoubtedly arises from her resolute belief in that notion. In the end, though, what really counts is our loved one’s happiness. With that in mind, we may surprise ourselves at just how much success we can achieve.

Director Lulu Wang’s excellent comedy-drama about how to handle an impending family tragedy is one of the most capably made, thoroughly satisfying films of this or any other year. With excellent performances by Awkwafina and Shenzhen Zhou and a superb, smartly written script, the picture takes viewers on an emotional rollercoaster, from laughter to tears to heartfelt warmth and back again. There’s so much to like here that it’s difficult to get one’s hands around everything it has to offer. Let’s hope this one is remembered come awards season.

Billed as being “based on an actual lie,” “The Farewell” presents a thoughtful look at difficult and touchy questions, many of whose answers might not be as definitive or clear-cut as many of us would like to believe. It gives us much to ponder, not only for circumstances like this, but also in realizing that there may be multiple approaches available for addressing any kind of difficult situation. By taking a reasoned, open-minded approach to such scenarios, we may find we have a variety of options open to us to arrive at the best, most satisfying outcomes, and who could argue with that?

A complete review is available by clicking here.

How We Become Who We Are

As we grow up, we lay the foundations for our lives and for who we end up becoming. Some of us may feel that this results from a series of happenstance events, random occurrences that seemingly materialize with no rhyme nor reason. Yet, if we look closely enough, there’s a certain order to things, with elements that unfold from identifiable aspects of our upbringing, many of which, in hindsight, often appear purposeful, as if they arise from defined, deliberate underlying influences and initiatives. Thus, when we examine our lives from that perspective, it’s quite possible to clearly see how we become who we are. Such is the case with the film chronicle of the formative years of a beloved children’s author, “Becoming Astrid” (“Unga Astrid”), available on DVD and video on demand (web site, trailer).

Astrid Lindgren (née Ericsson) (Alba August) enjoyed living her life as a free-spirited adolescent in rural Sweden in the 1920s, despite a pervasively conservative upbringing. Her willingness to quietly but forthrightly question authority often ran afoul of the strict, religious-based rearing of her parents, most notably her mother, Hanna (Maria Bonnevie). However, even under such stern conditions, Astrid steadily began to assert herself, a quality recognized (and discreetly applauded) by her father, Samuel (Magnus Krepper), who wanted to see his daughter develop the life skills that would enable her to become self-sufficient and successful. So, when he learned about an internship opening at the local newspaper, given Astrid’s budding talent for writing, he encouraged her to pursue it.

When Astrid inquired about the position with the editor, Reinhold Blomberg (Henrik Rafaelsen), a strong rapport developed between them almost immediately. Blomberg was impressed with Astrid’s prose and her ability to efficiently organize the operations of the newspaper office. He was also smitten with her youthful beauty, something that helped take his mind off the contentious divorce he was going through with his wife, Olivia (Maria Alm Norell). Blomberg’s infatuation with his new intern soon led to an affair – and to Astrid’s unplanned pregnancy.

A teenage Astrid Lindgren (née Ericsson) (August Alba) launches what would become a successful writing career by working as an intern at a small town newspaper in rural Sweden in the engaging biopic, “Becoming Astrid” (“Unga Astrid”), available on DVD and video on demand. Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.  

In light of the social values of the time, Astrid couldn’t stay in her hometown of Vimmerby. She relocated to Stockholm, where she enrolled in a secretarial training course and took a job to support herself while her pregnancy ran its course. When it was time to give birth, she traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to have her baby in seclusion, a precaution designed to keep the unwed mother out of the public eye of her homeland. She soon became mother to a newborn boy, Lars, whom she called Lasse (Marius Damslev), leaving the infant in the care of a foster parent, Marie (Trine Dyrholm), until conditions were more conducive to bring her child back home to Sweden.

However, despite her efforts to manage these matters as delicately and pragmatically as possible, Astrid experienced some obstacles. Blomberg, who had promised to marry Astrid once his divorce was final, ran into delays in the proceedings when charges of infidelity were entered in the case, a crime that could land him in jail if found guilty. But, when his sentence of only a fine was handed down, Astrid felt as if she had been strung along in anticipation of a far worse fate, a revelation that led to mistrust and prompted her to decline his proposal. She now faced the prospect of having to bring up Lasse on her own, not an easy option given her personal and economic resources. This was made all the more difficult with no support from either Blomberg or her family, from whom she had become estranged because of her status as a single mother, a shameful taboo at the time.

To help make it possible for Astrid to bring Lasse back to Sweden, she landed a better-paying job with the Royal Automobile Club working as an assistant to a no-nonsense but quietly compassionate boss, Sture Lindgren (Björn Gustafsson). Eventually she had saved enough to claim custody of her son, but she ran into a complication – now that Lasse was a toddler and had been under his foster mother’s care for so long, he had bonded with her, recognizing Marie, not Astrid, as his mother.

After an affair with her boss, newspaper editor Reinhold Blomberg (Henrik Rafaelsen, left), resulted in an unexpected pregnancy, intern and future author Astrid Lindgren (née Ericsson) (August Alba, right) tries to sort out her situation, circumstances complicated by divorce, single parenthood and a lack of family support as chronicled in the Swedish film biography, “Becoming Astrid” (“Unga Astrid”), now available on DVD and video on demand. Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

Needless to say, Astrid was devastated. She saw how attached Lasse had become to Marie and couldn’t bring herself to separate them, opting to leave him in her care permanently. But, when Marie fell ill and her health would no longer allow her to care for her fosterchild, there was no choice but for Astrid to take custody of her son. That proved difficult, given Lasse’s resistance to accepting his “new” mom.

What was Astrid to do? That’s the challenge she faced as a single parent with no financial support other than what she earned from her job and saddled with responsibility for a child who fought to accept her. And, when Lasse contracted a severe case of whooping cough, the challenge grew even greater. But there were solutions to be had, such as those from the unexpected generosity of others. And, given her way with words, a new skill emerged that opened up more doors than she could have ever possibly imagined, opportunities that would be available to her for the rest of her life.

This film, as its title suggests, thus illustrates how Astrid grew into the person she would become, someone who squarely faced her challenges and determined how to overcome them. The sense of personal empowerment that she developed through these experiences would not only distinguish who she was, but would also go on to define the nature of the characters in her writings, most notably those in the Pippi Longstocking books. She confronted her fears and soldiered on, learning the value of what can come from believing in oneself.

Admittedly, Astrid went through something of a learning curve when it came to these matters. When she initially set off for Stockholm, for example, she was unsure that she could rise to the occasion. However, somewhere deep inside herself, she must have known that she could do it, even if unaware of that fact. Thankfully, she came to recognize this for herself, aided by a little reassurance from her father, a realization that emboldened her to fulfill the tasks at hand.

With son Lasse (Marius Damslev, left), author Astrid Lindgren (née Ericsson) (August Alba, right) bonds with the toddler through the power of story as seen in the biopic about the writer’s formative years, “Becoming Astrid” (“Unga Astrid”), now available on DVD and video on demand. Photo courtesy of Music Box Films.

In tackling such challenges, Astrid learned how to become quite the problem-solver. She didn’t hesitate to think outside the box, pushing through established limitations that led her to the resources that fulfilled her needs. By giving herself permission to embrace a wider range of possibilities, she thus had access to a greater array of potential solutions, including those that she might have otherwise overlooked.

So where did such an open-minded outlook come from? One need only look to Astrid’s upbringing; even though she was raised under conventional circumstances, she didn’t hesitate to question authority if it didn’t make sense or satisfy her curiosity, no matter how impudent her mother found such thinking and behavior. And, even though it may have caused Astrid some consternation at the time, it infused her with a resolve that would effectively help her to address – and overcome – the challenges she faced later on in life.

Some might see such actions and intents as impulsive, perhaps even weird, implausible or “wrong,” given that they fly in the face of convention. Yet Astrid acted on them anyway, even when potential pitfalls loomed. And, as she came to find out, they ultimately ended up serving her well. By acting upon her intuition, she learned the value of paying attention to it, recognizing that one never knows what beneficially fortuitous opportunities they may lead to.

“Becoming Astrid” tells the heart-tugging yet uplifting tale of a beloved talent, showing how her experiences shaped her life and the works it inspired. Beautifully filmed and well acted, the picture captures the look and feel of the period, as well as the persona of its protagonist. However, despite its many assets, director Pernille Fischer Christensen’s latest definitely would have benefitted from more detail about the nature of Lindgren’s writings, as those who are unfamiliar with her works may not readily grasp the relevance between her life and her books. That deficiency, unfortunately, makes the film feel somewhat less than complete. However, there is much to like here, especially for those looking for the kind of movie that, like Lindgren’s books, is easy to cuddle up with on a long, rainy Saturday afternoon.

It’s been said that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And, as stories like this show, it’s also apparent that the tree is a direct outgrowth of its roots. That analogy certainly applies to us both literally and figuratively, and it’s fascinating to see what results, especially when what lies underground is robust and thriving. One could say that Astrid Lindgren had fertile ground to draw from, and we should all be thankful for the bountiful harvest it produced.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

Remedying a Glaring Disparity 

Movies and TV shows are wonderful outlets for entertainment, information and enlightenment. They provide us with tremendous sources of inspiration and creativity, especially for younger impressionable viewers. But are they everything they truly can be? Are they serving the wants and needs of all the audiences out there? What’s more, are they making available opportunities for creative expression to everyone in the business? If one were to ask many women in the entertainment industry, their answers would likely be characterized by dissatisfaction, disillusionment and frustration. And, to learn where those feelings come from, one need only look to the practices and outlooks of the decision-makers in the business, revelations made loud and clear in the eye-opening new documentary, “This Changes Everything” (web site, trailer).

The movie and television industries are replete with many talented women, both in front of and behind the camera. But are they all getting a fair shake when it comes to work opportunities? Moreover, when it specifically comes to on-screen appearances, are those that are available giving women enough chances to show what people of their gender can do?

As many prominent women in the business contend, the foregoing are important questions, because their answers have ramifications that extend far beyond their professional accomplishments. “This Changes Everything” takes a critical look at these issues, examining and statistically documenting the disproportionate number of jobs open to women in behind-the-scenes careers, such as directors, producers, showrunners and technical positions. Likewise, the picture does the same when it comes to comparing the number of available roles and the amount of allotted screen time for women compared to their male counterparts. It also shines a bright light on the limited range of roles in which women are typically cast, most of which are restricted to parts as girlfriends, sidekicks and victims in need of being rescued.

Actress-producer Geena Davis discusses the disparity in opportunities for women in the film and television industries in the eye-opening new documentary, “This Changes everything.” Photo courtesy of Fathom Events.

Those in the industry who are concerned about the foregoing worry about the repercussions associated these issues, not just for those in the business, but also in society at large. Why? Because of the messages these practices send to viewing audiences, especially children. For instance, if young girls are only exposed to images of women who fall into the limited range of roles noted above, what does that tell them about who they are and what they can become in life? Those who might aspire to careers, callings or lifestyles different from the three options previously discussed may never discover that other possibilities exist simply because they don’t see any female role models depicted in those capacities or scenarios. And, given that our contemporary entertainment vehicles strongly define the nature of our culture, they carry tremendous impact on who we are, how we see ourselves and what we believe we’re capable of, particularly during our formative years.

To that end, the subjects interviewed for this film – including representatives of both genders – contend that women need more opportunities in the business to get their voices heard and their viewpoints expressed, not only because they have something to say creatively, but also to help play a greater role in shaping society’s outlooks (and thus the roles in which young women can see themselves). Those are some rather staggering implications, notions that are typically overlooked, either unconsciously or intentionally.

It’s somewhat ironic that these circumstances exist compared to the early days of Hollywood, when women were on a nearly equal footing with their male counterparts. During the Silent Era, women held many prominent roles as writers and directors, some of them wielding considerable influence and commanding lucrative contracts. However, by the time talkies began to be made in the late 1920s, things began to change. As Hollywood now had to build large, expensive sound stages, that called for hefty infusions of cash, a resource controlled by bankers, most of whom were men, and those finance men only wanted to deal with other men. That’s when the balance tipped to the male side, where it has stayed ever since.

Veteran performer Meryl Streep observes how changing our entertainment changes our culture in the new documentary, “This Changes Everything.” Photo courtesy of Fathom Events.

To be sure, there have been instances where women have stepped to the fore, achieving impressive accomplishments both as on-screen protagonists and behind the camera. However, progress has largely taken the form of fits and starts that have not been able to sustain themselves. Cinematic blockbusters like “Thelma & Louise” (1991), for example, made huge, temporary splashes, yet all the prognostications that such releases would change things from there on out failed to materialize.

So why have women been left out of the game? There are various reasons, such as an industry that operates on a “good old boys” mentality. Then there are largely ineffective professional policies, such as self-regulation to supposedly ensure equal opportunities, a largely toothless enforcement regime. Prejudices against women being unable to get the job done also run rampant, despite plenty of examples to the contrary, both on the big and small screens.

Perhaps the most insidious reason, though, is an unconscious bias against inclusion. When male decision-makers move forward with their projects, they automatically tend to think in terms of which men for which roles, both on- and off-screen. Because women receive no consideration, they don’t make the cut for these opportunities. And that is what leads to male-dominated entertainment vehicles, which brings us back to the aforementioned issue of exclusion in on-screen representation and the attendant lack of role models.

If all this weren’t enough, though, women also face more than their share of indignities at the hands of male colleagues. The sexual harassment allegations raised against industry bigwigs like Harvey Weinstein are well known, but these high-profile cases are just the tip of the iceberg. As one actress in the film notes, she had an experience during a shoot where a male professional suggested that she sit on his lap when going over the lines for a scene, a proposition to which she responded by asking, “Do you have Tom Hanks sit on your lap when running the lines with him?”

Actress Taraji P. Henson speaks about the opportunities available for women in general, and women of color in particular, in the revealing new documentary, “This Changes Everything.” Photo courtesy of Fathom Events.

The indignities go beyond that as well. All too often, men in the business seek to objectify their female counterparts, pressuring actresses to do things for their roles that are designed to fulfill their aspirations for what constitutes the ideal woman, one who is essentially defined by sexuality and nothing else. For instance, actress Chloë Grace Moretz recounts an incident from one of her early roles where she found padded bra inserts (crassly referred to as “chicken cutlets”) left in her dressing room to accentuate her bust line, a message intended to let her know that nature hadn’t endowed her sufficiently enough to fulfill the vision the filmmakers held for her. As a budding young actress, she added, one can imagine what this gesture did to her self-esteem.

All of the foregoing policies and practices have become so ingrained that they have turned into widely held beliefs, particularly among those who are gatekeepers and controllers of the purse strings. And those beliefs have subsequently fueled the manifestation of the reality that is Hollywood. However, despite the power of these driving forces, they are by no means fixed or unchangeable. There have been times over the years, for instance, when progress – though limited – has been made. Those instances show that change is indeed possible; the trick, however, is figuring out how to maintain it. And, with new tactics in the offing, women in the industry may well be on the verge of instituting practices that could alter the standard operating procedures, a change made possible by implementing new ideas with different and sustainable outcomes.

For example, many in the business firmly believe in the notion that “numbers don’t lie.” To that end, actress Geena Davis established the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to quantify the opportunities available to women in the movie and television industries, a project aimed at statistically showing just how limited they really are. The findings of those studies, presented liberally throughout this film, bear out what most women in Hollywood have instinctively known for a long time. These results thus provide a powerful argument to counter the contentions of men in the business who mistakenly believe that more opportunities for women exist than there really are. With such numbers in hand, women like Davis observe that men can’t disregard these figures if they’re to be taken seriously.

Actress-producer-director Natalie Portman discusses the limited opportunities available for women behind the camera, noting that she herself is one of the few female directors she has ever worked with, as seen in “This Changes Everything.” Photo courtesy of Fathom Events.

Numbers involving dollar signs tend to speak especially loudly, yet there’s been a long-held belief in Hollywood that only men can generate financial windfalls. The film dispels that idea, however, by presenting examples set by movies like “Wonder Woman” (2017), an action-adventure picture showcasing a female protagonist (Gal Gadot) and directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins), and the television shows created by Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, all of which feature formidable women characters. These vehicles have been cash cows for their respective organizations, positively obliterating the conventional wisdom about what creative women are able to accomplish.

Davis’s organization also focuses specifically on fostering opportunities for creatives who seek to eliminate gender bias in entertainment vehicles aimed at children 11 and under. This is an effort that embodies the previously discussed notion that changing the programming that changes the message can change the culture. And that goal is attainable by changing who creates those entertainment vehicles in the first place.

According to the film, there’s evidence that backs this up, too, a phenomenon known as “the CSI effect.” Actress Marg Helgenberger, a cast member of the long-running television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, a series focused on forensic police investigation techniques, notes that, after appearing in more than 260 episodes, she had such an impact on young female viewers that the number of women who enrolled in this field of study swelled dramatically. Admittedly, this evidence is somewhat anecdotal, but its significance can’t be ignored.

Television star Yara Shahidi discusses the opportunities for women newcomers in the business in “This Changes Everything.” Photo courtesy of Fathom Events.

These initiatives, the product of inspired thinking, are designed to help push past the barriers that have held women back. They show that limitations can indeed be overcome. Thanks to the notions espoused by efforts such as these, as well as those of other enterprises like the #MeToo movement, the tide at last seems to be turning. It may not be happening fast enough for some, but the momentum does seem to be carrying it forward, surpassing the stalling points that occurred with many efforts of the past. With the continued efforts of those behind these movements, sustained co-creative input from all of their participants and firmly rooted beliefs in what is truly possible, there’s no telling what might happen. This really could change everything.

This eye-opening look at the creative and managerial under-representation of women in the motion picture and television industries scathingly exposes a disparity in the business that’s been far more egregious than most of us were probably aware of. The film’s star-studded array of interviews with performers, directors, producers, showrunners, talent agents and others is truly impressive, as is its selection of clips from a wide range of movies and TV shows. The war stories from such veteran performers as Marisa Tomei, Jessica Chastain, Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Gillian Anderson, Sharon Stone, Geena Davis, Mary-Louise Parker and Sandra Oh, as well as comparative newcomers like Tiffany Haddish, Taraji P. Henson, Yara Shahidi, Jackie Cruz and Chloë Grace Moretz, speak volumes, revealing a pattern of policies and practices sorely in need of reform. Except for an important (but decidedly overlong) segment about a decades-old lawsuit that was initiated to correct these issues among Hollywood directors, the picture is solid across the board, shining a bright light on one of the entertainment industry’s dirty little secrets – one whose societal and cultural implications extend beyond just what amuses us.

“This Changes Everything” may be a little difficult to find, at least in the near term. The picture has been playing at a number of film festivals and was the subject of a national one-night-only theatrical presentation by Fathom Events on July 22. However, the film will be available on DVD and video on demand in October. It’s truly worth the wait.

Holding back an inspired creative force is ultimately like trying to stop a tsunami. Sooner or later there will be a breakthrough, and, for women in the entertainment business, it would appear that such an inevitability is on the brink of happening. This is a welcome and refreshing change, one that can only make an impressive industry even more vital and vibrant. And, for move lovers like me, that can’t happen soon enough.

A complete review is available by clicking here.

A Fitting Farewell

The recent passing of renowned Dutch actor Rutger Hauer (1944-2019) revived interest in the veteran performer’s work. Although many of his recent efforts may not have garnered the same degree of attention as some of his classic roles, he worked steadily through a long and storied career.

In the many tributes that were paid to Hauer in the wake of his death, one that came up frequently was his legendary final scene in director Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic, “Blade Runner” (1982). As the renegade artificial life form Roy Batty, Hauer’s character actively chases down Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a special forces officer charged with “retiring” beings whose behavior becomes uncontrollable, a genuine challenge given their superior strength and intelligence. With Batty’s preprogrammed life span coming to an end, he’s faced with deciding how he wants to spend those waning moments, be they driven by vengeance or other emotions.

Hauer’s treatment of the scene is truly astounding, having even come up with a contribution of his own that supposedly wasn’t in the script, an addition that made the scene one movie lovers will never forget. See the scene by clicking here.

Copyright © 2019, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.