KaleyCuocoEgos clash when one of the members of a writing group has sudden success.

Alas, this potentially funny premise is badly bungled. Weighed down by stereotypical characters none of the talented cast members have room to grow, altho Dennis Farina (in his final film role) does have a few moments as a guy who decides to go the Self-Publishing route. (JLH: 2.5/5)

Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Not yet seen by Rich.


Top Photo: Kaley Cuoco as Writing Group Star ”Hannah Rinaldi.”

Bottom Photo: Writing Group Members Clockwise from Top = Dylan Walsh as “Alan Mooney,” Chris Klein as “Henry Obert,” Dennis Farina as “John K. Butzin,” and Kaley Cuoco.

Photo Credits: Reid Chavis

Q: Does Authors Anonymous pass the Bechdel Test?

Not really. There is a mini-scene with Teri Polo as “Colette Mooney” forcing her way into the office of agent “Lois Pepper” (Diane Robin), but it’s too brief to be substantive.

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Opens tomorrow in NYC. Review coming soon.

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Opens tomorrow in NYC. Review coming soon.

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FragilePosterNYC-Shout Out: A Fragile Trust opens tomorrow (4/11/14) at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street just south of Union Station. Q&A sessions are planned all weekend with Samantha Grant & other guests. Click here for times & ticket information.


Full Title = A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power, and Jayson Blair at the New York Times


In 2003, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was fired for plagiarism. As press pounced on the scandal, it was quickly clear that many people knew Blair was “in trouble,” but no one actively intervened until the damage–to Blair AND to the Times–was irreversible.

Filmmaker Samantha Grant does a good job of description, but she never really delves as deep as she should into complex questions of causality. (JLH: 3/5)

Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Already seen by both me & Rich.

Photo Credits: Samantha Grant / A Fragile Trust Press Kit

Q: Does A Fragile Trust pass the Bechdel Test? DigitalStampA


Kinda sorta.

Grant interviews several female informants even though all the major players were guys…

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NoorCropNYC Shout-Out: Dancing in Jaffa opens tomorrow (4/11/14) at IFC Center on 6th Ave & 4th Street. Q&A sessions are planned all weekend with Israeli director Hilla Medalia & other guests. Click HERE for times & ticket information.


Pierre Dulaine has achieved world-wide fame first as a Ballroom Dancer & later as a teacher who uses dance to transform the lives of troubled kids. Who knows why this works, but it seems to: Dulaine appeared as himself in a 2005 doc called Mad Hot Ballroom, and he was played by Antonio Bandaras (yowza!) in the 2006 BioPic Take the Lead.

Now Dulaine “returns” to Jaffa (where he was born to a Palestinian mother and an Irish father in 1944) to heal all conflicts in the Middle East with a one and a two and a cha-cha-cha. And somehow, yet again, Pierre pulls the rabbits out of his hat. Forget about Israeli kids dancing with Palestinian kids… the Palestinian kids are dancing with each other… Oy!!!

Amazingly Israeli filmmaker Hilla Medalia is saved from her own treacle by an ungainly girl named Noor. Whenever Noor was at the center of the film, my heart was on my sleeve.  (JLH: 3/5)

Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Not yet seen by Rich.


Top Photo: Noor Gabai.

Bottom Photo: Pierre Dulaine surrounded by kids.

Photo Credits: Hilla Medalia

Q: Does Dancing in Jaffa pass the Bechdel Test? DigitalStampA


There are many little scenes between students, between teachers, & between students & teachers, but the conversations Noor has with her mother are beyond compare!

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BeerMugsNYC Shout-Out: Hank And Asha opens tomorrow (4/11/14) at the Village East Cinema on 2nd Ave & 12th Street. Q&A sessions are planned all weekend with Duff, Morrison & other guests. Click HERE for times & ticket information.


Delightful dramedy done on a micro-budget by filmmakers James E. Duff & his wife/partner Julia Morrison (who co-wrote screenplay with Duff, did the editing, & is now managing the film’s Festival Bookings).

“Hank” (Andrew Pastides) is an aspiring filmmaker in NYC who has succeeded in placing a short doc on the festival circuit. “Asha” (Mahira Kakkar) is a film student from Kolkata (India) who is studying film in Prague (Czech Republic).

When Hank is unable to attend “his” screening in Prague, Asha decides to conduct her own Q&A via video. A relationship develops in cyberspace which is inevitably fraught with psychological & cultural complications. (JLH: 4/5)


Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Not yet seen by Rich.

Top Photo: Knowing Hank likes beer, “Asha” (Mahira Kakkar) takes him on a Beer Tour of Prague.

Middle Photo: Asha shows Hank the theatre in which his film screened.

Bottom Photo: “Hank” (Andrew Pastides)–who is a Production Assistant on a TV Reality Show–shows Asha his “office.”

Photo Credits: Paper Chain Productions.

Question One: Why does the Press Kit call Hank And Asha a “romantic comedy”…? Be Warned, Folks: If you are looking for mindless yuks, do not look here!!!


Question Two: Does Hank And Asha pass the Bechdel Test?

D’uh! This is a film about a guy & a gal that only has two characters, so the inevitable answer is no…

But I have every confidence that should Hank And Asha succeed at the box office (and it should!!!) Duff & Morrison will bring us new films that do pass the Bechdel Test.

Me, I live in hope :-)

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WiigKitchenTwo teenage girls (Sami Gayle and Hailee Steinfeld) play a nasty trick on a seemingly fragile housekeeper (Kristen Wiig) who turns out to have surprising inner resources.

This delicate drama, directed by Liza Johnson, is based on a story by Canadian author Alice Munro (who just won the Nobel Prize for Literature in December 2013).

Excellent supporting performances by a relatively large cast (in  the Indie context) frame Wiig perfectly in her central role. (JLH: 4/5)

Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Not yet seen by Rich.


Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi…

This is how Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro ends her exquisite story Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: a teenage girl named Edith is sitting at a kitchen table doing homework while her mother babbles in the background.

“You must not ask, it is forbidden for us to know… what fate has in store for me, or for you.”

The quote comes from the Ode in which Horace invokes the famous words “Carpe Diem” (Seize the Day!), but Munro wants none of that. And with all the changes director Liza Johnson and screenwriter Mark Poirier have made to Munro’s story, they have held fast to her underlying theme: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

The first time “Edith Schultz” (Sami Gayle) meets ”Johanna Parry” (Kristen Wiig), the bright teenager sees only a patsy. Edith is the best friend of “Sabitha Boudreau” (Hailee Steinfeld), and Johanna is the new housekeeper Sabitha’s grandfather “Mr. McCauley” (Nick Nolte) has hired to care for them in his big old house.

Johanna arrives while Sabitha’s ne’er do well father “Ken” (Guy Pearce) is visiting, and Edith, ever watchful, quickly realizes that she can make some mischief by convincing Sabitha to fabricate a relationship between Johanna and Ken. Sami is not only very smart, she is also very angry. She really doesn’t care very much about Johanna. Her goal is to wound Sabitha by reminding her that despite all her material advantages, Sabitha is still the daughter of a loser. SamiFB

It’s a good plan, and Sabitha–blind to Edith’s true intentions–readily goes along with it. After all, she is angry too. Since her mother’s death, Sabitha has grown accustomed to living with her self-absorbed grandfather. Who wants dowdy old Johanna around to monitor her comings and goings? So Edith and Sabitha play a nasty trick on a seemingly fragile housekeeper, little suspecting what fate actually has in store for all of them.

This is a delicate drama that demands appreciation for the excellent acting that brings all these characters to life. Johnson and Poirier have updated the story, moving it from Canada circa 1960 to Iowa circa 2010. They have also sweetened the ending a bit giving Mr. McCauley and Sabitha much better futures than the ones Munro envisioned for them. But the thread connecting Sami and Johanna is still at the center, even though they only have one scene alone together at the very end of the film.

Playing Johanna, Kristen Wiig must begin as someone who believes she has no right to a future. Poirier’s screenplay compresses Johanna’s backstory, but Wiig still succeeds in capturing all of Munro’s intended emotion. Here is Munro describing Johanna’s trip to Milady’s Dress Shop: “Even when she was younger Johanna could never have contemplated such extravagance, not just in the matter of money but in expectations, in the preposterous hope of transformation, and bliss.” As the story unfolds, it is precisely Wiig’s dogged determination to face things the way they really are that eventually results in a seemingly preposterous transformation.

Playing Edith, on the other hand, Sami Gayle must begin as someone who believes she has every right to a future. Gayle doesn’t need to throw Munro’s Latin references at us, we know how smart Edith is from the bright gleam in her eyes as she looks around greedy for new opportunities.

Guy Pearce also does a fine job as Ken. Convinced that he has already destroyed his life, Ken is first confused and then amazed to learn that he might have a future after all too.

Christine Lahti and Jennifer Jason Leigh, playing two women totally different from Johanna, are also very good in small but critical roles that counterpoint Wiig’s lead performance.

I left Hateship Loveship very moved and I spent the next few days ruminating about the role of the Law of Unintended Consequences in my own life. Then I got my hands on Alice Munro’s story (which I had not read before) and ruminated for a few days more. Horace was right:

“You must not ask, it is forbidden for us to know… what fate has in store for me, or for you.”


Top Photo: Close-Up of Kristen Wiig as “Johanna Parry” in the kitchen of the McCauley home.

Bottom Photo: Suddenly considering new options, Johanna ventures into Milady’s (the fanciest dress shop in town) at the end of Act One.

Photo Credits: Patti Perret/Hateship Capital LLC. An IFC Films Release.

NOTE: The photo of Sami Gayle (who plays the crucial role of “Edith”) is from Facebook: Unfortunately, jpgs from Hateship Loveship are really sparse (even on the IFC site for critics!), so I am not able to show photos that depict the things I most want to say about this film…

Q: Does Hateship Loveship pass the Bechdel Test? DigitalStampA


There are many lovely scenes in this film in which female characters–women and girls–have conversations with one another that have nothing to do with men.

From the opening moments (in which Johanna is caring for elderly Mrs. Willets) to the closing moments (when Johanna makes eye contact with Edith at the high school graduation, and they each both appraise and acknowledge one another), Hateship Loveship is filled with conversations that appear low key but are in fact brimming with subtle significance.

Even in the scene in which Johanna has her one solo conversation with “Chloe” (Jennifer Jason Leigh), they’re really not “talking about Ken” (played by Guy Pearce). What they are actually doing is sizing each other up, each one trying to figure out how to deal with this new woman who has unexpectedly appeared in Ken’s apartment.

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VoteForFLHWorld Premiere on Friday April 4th!

From the WomenArts Website:

Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story is a full-length opera by Mary Watkins about Fannie Lou Hamer, the daughter of sharecroppers who was one of the first African-Americans to register to vote in Mississippi.  She became a leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and endured death threats, beatings, and imprisonment in order to obtain voting rights for her people.

You can listen to four audio samples from the piece – Fannie’s “I Question America” solo; a scene between Fannie and her husband, Pap, “We Lost Dorothy“; a scene where Fannie speaks to the delegates from the Mississippi Freedom Party, “The Delegates Meet“; and a scene where the delegates sing of their determination to stand together, “We Do Not Accept.”

WomenArts is currently working with Mary Watkins to raise funds for the East Coast Premiere of a new version which will be performed by the 60-piece Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA in April 2014, and the Southern Premiere at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA in February 2015. We welcome inquiries from other professional companies or schools that are interested in producing “Dark River: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story” with a full orchestra.

About the Composer: Mary Watkins

Mary Watkins

Mary Watkins

Trained in classical music at Howard University, Mary Watkins has written for symphony orchestras, chamber and jazz ensembles, film, theatre, and choral groups, in addition to being a popular recording artist for Olivia records in the 1970s. She wrote the score for theRevolutionary Nutcracker Sweetie, a jazz adaptation of theNutcracker Suite, which was performed annually from 1987-97 by San Francisco’s Dance Brigade as a progressive holiday treat.

Watkins’ recent recordings include Prayer for Peace, a meditational CD, and Recorded Music of the African Diaspora (Albany Records, 2010: Center For Black Music Research; department of Columbia College in Chicago, IL).

To see Mary Watkins’ full resume, please click here>>

Additional Online Resources

In addition to the links from the icons about, WomenArts has posted an orchestration list, and the reviews from the Oakland Opera Theater production in 2009. You can see a menu of all of the Dark River links in the sidebar of any of our web pages about the opera.

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Opens tomorrow in NYC. Review coming soon.

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Opens tomorrow in NYC. Review coming soon.

Posted in Reviews: E-G | Leave a comment