JxJ Film Festival: Seder-Masochism

Loosely following a traditional Passover Seder, events from the Book of Exodus are retold by Moses, Aharon, the Angel of Death, Jesus, and the director’s own father. But there’s another side to this story: that of the Goddesses, humanity’s earliest deities. “Seder-Masochism” resurrects the Great Mother in a tragic struggle against the forces of patriarchy. -IMDB synopsis

…filled with tap-dancing Moses, the ten plagues, the visage of God (speaking in the voice of her late father), and swaying, cartwheeling, singing and spiraling Goddesses. Set to popular blues, rock, soul and spirituals, this film is an emotional, searing indictment of violence… -Excerpt from IMDB review

Wow, the world (esp. of creative ppl, or those who follow their work) is SO small! I met this filmmaker, Nina Paley, in NYC at a small Meetup event for the (now archived) blog, Sepia Mutiny. I followed several of that blog’s contributors; she was friends w/ members of this group (consisting of South Asians from around the US and world). Paley’s first animated film was Sita Sings the Blues; it focused partly on her relationship w/ her former husband (who transferred to India for his job) and also on the trials faced by the goddess Sita in the Hindu religion. This film is more closer to home for Paley (a secular Jewish woman); it’s about the Seder meal story, as well as her relationship w/ her (recently deceased) father.

The animation here is much more sophisticated; I’m not sure how to describe this type of graphic art. In the dialogues, there are humorous moments, along w/ very touching ones (giving us a glimpse into the dynamics of the filmmaker’s family). Paley’s father plays the Voice of God; he had an ambivalent relationship to his religion, though was proud to be of Jewish heritage. This film also has a big musical component; I think 3 of the songs she chose were new to me. These songs include spirituals, which are most often attributed to African-Americans. Since Paley believes in “free use,” you can download and view it yourself! Follow this link: https://sedermasochism.com/

Emma’s Faves of 2015: Film

99 Homes


99 Homes shouldn’t be described as the typical tour-de-force, but more of a tour-de-fact cinematic achievement.

Holding his own against a larger than life acting force that is Shannon, Garfield’s Nash allows himself to feed off Carver’s greed and sinisterly convincing monologues with scenes of heart-wrench, grit and sensitivity.

-Comments from a viewer from Canada (IMDB)

I saw this film at a pre-screening (w/ my movie Meetup group); I wasn’t expecting it to be this good!  Michael Shannon (who portrays a quite realistic villain) is a shoe-in for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  (FYI:  Broadgreen acquired the film late in OCT ’14, then tried to squeeze in a release before the end of that year to qualify for the Oscars.  They decided they didn’t have enough time to mount a proper marketing campaign, so it sat on the shelf until OCT ’15.)

Read my review of director Ramin Bahrani’s first film, Man Push Cart.

Read A.O. Scott’s comprehensive NYT review here.

Ex Machina


…if the test is passed, you are dead center of the greatest scientific event in the history of man.  -Nathan

If you’ve created a conscious machine, it’s not the history of man. That’s the history of gods.  -Caleb

Quiet dialogue scenes between two characters are filmed in such an impactful way, making them feel hauntingly austere, sweet and innocent, or terrible and frightening, through meticulous use of composition, light and sound.

The performances are excellent, most notably Alicia Vikander as the beguiling Ava, who absolutely passes for being ‘almost human.’  Domhnall Gleeson also delivers a quiet and focused performance as Caleb. Like Ava, he is relatable… in complete contrast to the boorish, reckless Nathan (Oscar Isaac).

The dialogue feels real and non-cliché. The ending probably will not satisfy everyone…  Overall I found it to be enthralling and disturbing stuff.

-Comments from a viewer in Ireland

This year, I’ve been listening to a few different movie podcasts; ALL of them reviewed and praised this sci-fi film.  I FINALLY saw it 2 weeks ago and was VERY surprised (which is rare these days- stories becoming more and MORE repetitive, cliched, and just plain boring).  Alex Garland, the writer and director, is going to be one to watch in the future (no pun intended).  This is more like a 3-person play, as one critic noted, NOT a typical sci-fi film.  Even the music is out-of-the box!  You can watch it on Netflix; don’t forget to recommend to your friends who don’t usually go in for sci-fi (they’ll thank you later).

Do y’all remember when I FIRST wrote re: Issac?

Inside Out


When I was asked to do this, the script was amazing. I went up to Pixar and I cried. I was just in a meeting with these guys and they showed me the story and I started weeping.  -Mindy Kaling

This is another film I saw at a pre-screening (w/ my movie Meetup group): I went in knowing almost nothing about it, aside from the fact that Kaling, Amy Poehler, and Louis Black were playing some of the voices.  It ALSO turned out to be a pleasant surprise (Bing Bong was one of my faves)!  The crowd was moved throughout the animated film; we were almost ALL grown-ups from 20s-50s.  You can see this film w/ the entire family- each person will get something different out of it!   

Read my full review.



I went to see this film w/ my mom- we BOTH loved it!  And can you believe that Saoirse Ronan is ONLY in her early 20s!?  Emory Cohen (who I’d never seen before) does a FINE job as Tony; I think he was channeling a young, BUT more low-key version of Brando.  This is another film w/ Domhnall Gleeson- here, he plays Jim, the handsome (check out that darker red hair and preppy wardrobe), well-settled Irish bar owner; this is a far cry from his roles in Ex Machina and the new Star Wars film. 

Read Virginia’s VERY well-written review here.

Listen to Me Marlon


A MUST-SEE for fans of classic films!  It has been playing on Showtime for the past 2 wks or so; it will be on WED, 12/30 at 10PM EST.  It kept me glued to my seat past midnight, even though I should’ve been sleeping.  

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


By now, you ALL must have seen this movie- maybe some saw it twice!  There were quite a FEW surprises for me, even though I’d (partly) been spoiled by the time I saw it last week.  Gleeson is here again (getting to REALLY like him), as are Isaac (LOVE him already) and Adam Driver (mostly known for his recurring role on HBO’s Girls).  Harrison Ford is onscreen for a good amount of time- my mom and lil bro BOTH liked that.  The two newbie leads (Daisy Ridley and John Boyega) did VERY well; they also had GREAT chemistry.  My mom also liked the new robot (BB-8).  Go check it out if you haven’t yet- you’ll have a GREAT time for sure! 

Listen to Zaki & Brian’s podcast review here. 

Inside Out (NOW PLAYING) starring the voices of Amy Poehler, Lewis Black & Mindy Kaling


NOTE: This is a SPOILER-FREE review.

I saw “Inside Out” at a free pre-screening w/ my movie Meetup (all ladies) and a large group of press folks (who were pretty quiet during the film, which is common).  Before the main attraction, we saw a short film (“Lava”) about a lonely volcano that wants to have someone to love.  I’m NOT sure if this story was based on a Hawaiian folk tale.  There was a song all through the short, which was cute and catchy.


I went in NOT knowing much about the film, BUT I liked it!  Some critics say it’s the best thing since “Toy Story,” which was a big hit for Pixar.  I suggest it for kids 10 and up, especially, as it deals w/ themes that MAY go over the heads of the younger crowd.  There is also a LOT for grown-ups to enjoy.


Riley, an 11 y.o. girl, goes through a period of displacement and sadness after moving from her suburban home in Minnesota to an apartment in San Francisco.  Aside from Riley, the main characters are the emotions inside her head: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), and Fear (Bill Hader).  I wanted to see this mainly b/c I’m a fan of Black and Kaling. 

In the beginning, everyone was bummed out by how Sadness (who is blue, wears a turtleneck) was acting, BUT we know that people can’t always be happy.  Riley has to get used to her new room, new school and classmates, and missing her best friend.  She finds it VERY difficult to be her usual positive self, even though she knows that’s what her parents (voiced by Diane Lane and Kyle McLachlan) want.  Joy tries hard to get Sadness out of the way, BUT an accident pulls these two main emotions away from the control room.