Posts Tagged Maggie Gyllenhaal

STEELE PICKS: 12 BEST FILMS of 2014

I’ll choose indie, quirky and dark over anything else anytime. Also quite clear that I support women screenwriters and directors and women in film. I also immensely like Kristen Wiig, Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss. THREE films from Knightley make the list. Themes running through my list: depression; finding oneself; feeling wayward; and musicians.

For two years while I worked at Harvard Business School I was a film critic for the newspaper The Harbus. I wrote reviews for several other publications but I’ve always been primarily a music critic. I’ve also become a book critic. I appreciate great films but don’t write about them.

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1. Whiplash

incredible film about the power of music, redemption and perseverance.

starring: Miles Teller, JK Simmons
written and directed by: Damien Chazelle

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2. Begin Again

promising singer-songwriter gets her shot at recording an album.

starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keenar, Adam Levine
written and directed by: John Carney

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3. Under the Skin

a weird mesmerizing film. stunning cinematography.

starring: Scarlett Johansson
written by: Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer
directed by: Jonathan Glazer

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4. Belle

In 19th century England, a young black woman gets brought up alongside her white cousin. She learns that she’ll never be treated equally despite their similarities. Belle [Gugu Mbathal-Raw] battles racism and joins the fight for equality under the law.

starring: Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Gugu Mbathal-Raw
written by: Misan Sagay
directed by: Amma Asante

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5. The Skeleton Twins

touching film about estranged twins with depression and stagnant lives. perfectly played by Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader.

starring: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader
written by: Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson
directed by: Craig Johnson

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6. Nightcrawler

didn’t expect to like this film as much as I did and I was blown away. it’s riveting and disturbing. Gyllenhaal outstanding in every scene.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Written and directed by:Dan Gilroy

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7. Laggies

loved this film about not being quite an adult and no longer being a teenager either. That point where you just don’t know what to do with yourself anymore but know that you can’t remain in a stagnant life.

starring: Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell, Chloe Grace Moretz
written by: Andrea Seigel
directed by: Lynn Shelton

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8. Frank

sometimes the best (or most memorable) artists are eccentric, sad or both. Frank is about such a musician leading an indie group who makes it to perform at SXSW.

starring: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson, Scoot McNairy
written by:Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan
directed by: Lenny Abrahamson

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9. The Homesman

Not generally a fan of westerns this one got me. a feminist Western with a strong, uncompromising woman [Hilary Swank] at its core.

starring: Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto
written by: Tommy Lee Jones and Kieran Fitzgerald
directed by: Tommy Lee Jones

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10. The Imitation Game

amazing story about the small group of mathematicians led by Alan Turing [Benedict Cumberbatch] who broke the Nazi’s Enigma Code during WWII. what happens to Turing in the 50s– getting prosecuted for being gay– is horrific. The film is wonderful. Keira Knightley excellent as the lone female in the group.

starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Good, Allen Leech, Mark Strong, Charles Dance
directed by: Morten Tyldum
written by: Graham Moore

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11. Selma

An important film about civil rights. So moving. I cried. Martin Luther King Jr. works to secure equal voting rights during the 1960s with a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth, Lorraine Toussant, Tom Wilkinson
written by: Paul Webb
directed by: Ava DuVernay

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12. Listen Up Philip

starring: Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Jonathan Pryce, Krysten Ritter
written and directed by: Alex Ross Perry

Acerbic wit. Arrogant self-centered writer (aren’t most writers?). Highly quotable and darkly amusing film.

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STEELE PICKS: 12 Best Television Programs of 2014

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Rectify

Perfectly written and acted. dark. intense. riveting. Excellent cast and complicated story-lines. A thinking-person’s program.

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Homeland

S4 excellent. Now in Pakistan where Carrie Mathison [Claire Danes] serves as deputy director of the CIA. Claire Danes dazzles as Carrie Mathison. She depicts mental illness better than anyone I’ve ever seen. It’s not a crutch. It’s not a disability. It’s part of Carrie’s personality.

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Justified

there’s something off-the-reservation wild [and inherently sexy] about this show about U.S. Marshals in Kentucky. It’s quite masculine. It’s a male-dominated setting but there’s nothing sexist about it. Timothy Olyphant superb. Also I enjoy Alicia Witt’s turn as a bold, kick-ass law student who keeps defending her deadbeat trouble-maker redneck brothers.

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The Knick

medicine in the early 1900s. I’m in. It’s early days at the Knickerbocker hospital in Manhattan.

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Orphan Black

generally I don’t like sci-fi however this series about clones fascinates me. Plus Tatiana Maslany vividly acts out all the clones. They all have peculiarities that make it fun to watch.

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Orange is the New Black

everything to say about this show has been said. diversity, humor and pathos.

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Call the Midwife

Child-free by choice. Never wanted children. No interest in being pregnant but this female-centric show is wonderful. written by women, directed by women, centered on stories about women. friendships and careers.

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Mad Men

almost over and it’s as brilliant as ever.

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The Honourable Woman

a twitter friend asked me how this show was and I said it was complex and confusing. Stylish and powerful. In college I majored in Political Science and English. Took a class called The Arab/Israeli Conflict. That helps a bit. Maggie Gyllenhaal is phenomenal. All the women are power players and run this show from Gyllenhaal as CEO Nessa Stein embroiled in the Arab-Israeli conflict to Eve Best [Nurse Jackie] and Janet McTeer and Lindsay Duncan.

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Happy Valley

Sarah Lancashire is a genius. Here she’s a police officer in a small UK town. See also: Last Tango in Halifax a sweet and funny show about an aging couple who rekindle a high school romance.

Nurse Jackie

Nurse Jackie

flawed and caring Jackie. the outstanding Edie Falco. excellent writing by women because honestly who better to write such a layered, complicated female character than women.

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Getting On

Dry comedy about the day-to-day in a rehab facility. Aging and death couldn’t be handled any better than this. Maybe I can relate because I’ve worked in healthcare/eldercare. It’s smart and the troupe of actors including Niecy Nash, Laurie Metcalf and Alex Borstein is fantastic.

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Women’s History Month: some of my favorite films by women

Grace of My Heart [1996]
written and directed by Allison Anders
–Loosely based on the tumultuous rise of singer/songwriter Carole King, Grace of My Heart is a tour-de-force and one of my favorite films ever. Starring Illeana Douglas, Grace of My Heart takes viewers through the music biz from the famed Brill Building to communes and the hip 60s and beyond as one woman strives to find her own voice in a male-dominated industry.

Waitress [2007]
written and directed by Adrienne Shelly
–a charming and heart-warming film about an independent, spirited small-town woman [Keri Russell] determined to leave her abusive husband and make it big on her own.

Monsoon Wedding [2001]
directed by Mira Nair

Away from Her [2006]
written and directed by Sarah Polley
–a graceful love story about a woman with Alzheimer’s

Searching for Debra Winger [2002]
directed by Rosanna Arquette
–documentary on women in film, which includes amazing and very honest commentary from stars from Gwyneth Paltrow to Whoopi to Vanessa Redgrave to Salma Hayek to Charlotte Rampling to of course Debra Winger. It’s great that these women feel comfortable with age but sad to see the frustration and that there still is the issue of great roles for women over 30.

Broken English [2007]
Written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes
— story of Nora [formidable, immensely talented Parker Posey], a 35-year-old who seems stuck in a rut—both personally and professionally. Nora has become complacent and settled at her hotel job. She is beginning to delve into the Bell Jar after years of seeming to know what she wanted and now being at the age where she feels she should already be there.

The Namesake [2006]
directed by Mira Nair
–the story revolves around Gogol [Kal Penn], a mid-twenties architect who has been fighting against his traditional Indian family and heritage. He gets pulled back in by an unforeseen family crisis and it changes his outlook and future forever.

Bright Star [2009]
written and directed by Jane Campion
–wondrously languid, romantic and exquisitely filmed. It tells the story of the tender and tragic love affair between poet John Keats [Ben Whishaw] and his muse and love Fanny Brawne [Abbie Cornish] as told through her eyes.

Come Early Morning [2006]
written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams
–a woman [Ashley Judd] who struggles with alcoholism tries to get her life on track

Fire [1996]
Earth [1998]
Water [2005]
written and directed by Deepa Mehta

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2 Days in Paris [2006]
written and directed by Julie Delpy
–an American and a Parisian talk a lot, fight a lot

Girlfight [2000]
written and directed by Karyn Kusama
–focus on female boxers

Somewhere [2010]
written and directed by Sofia Coppola
–a wayward actor [Stephen Dorff] and his heartfelt relationship with his daughter [Elle Fanning]

The Parking Lot Movie [2010]
directed by Meghan Eckman
–three years following the ins and outs of the attendants at a parking lot in Virginia. truly riveting. really.

SherryBaby [2006]
written and directed by Laurie Collyer
–after serving a three-year prison sentence, Sherry [Maggie Gyllenhaal] returns to New Jersey to try to re-establish family ties, including one with her daughter

The Hurt Locker [2009]
directed by Kathryn Bigelow
–heart-pounding thriller about the guys who diffuse IEDs in Iraq

The Kids Are All Right [2010]
co-written and directed by Lisa Chodolenko
–the teenage children of lesbian parents decide to contact the sperm donor and meeting him has implications on the entire family

Please Give [2010]
written and directed by Nicole Holofcener

Winter’s Bone [2010]
written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
directed by Debra Granik
–a teenager [Jennifer Lawrence] searches for her father in dangerous, bleak meth-country

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