WOMEN OF POWER

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Kris

Can't decide what to watch?FollowTheThread.
Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
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There have always been powerful women, but women with power — not so much.  With Hillary accepting the nomination tonight, we thought we’d dedicate this week to profiles of powerful women. 

“Powerful” in the geopolitical sense.  We knew the pickin’s would be sparse — but we were surprised to be reminded just how much so.    

There were no female Roman or Chinese emperors, no female prophets in The Bible, and no female signatories to the American Declaration of Independence.

 But now a woman is positioned to become the most powerful person on earth – and the rest is up to the American electorate.  Let the great roulette wheel of democracy spin! 

  

IN THEATRES THIS WEEK:

Equity
EQUITY (2016)

Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) plays an investment banker who is looking to carve out a

n even higher perch at her company by launching a digital IPO.  When she discovers that there may be a fly in the pudding, she must choose which right choice to make – the one that is morally sound, or the one that will advance her career.

Notable because even though it’s set in the traditionally male world of finance and all the major characters are women  – with the exception of a “homme fatale” played by James Purefoy – and it’s directed, produced and written by women, it’s not a “woman’s movie” in the traditional sense.

 

 

5 WORTH WATCHING:

 

IRON LADY
THE IRON LADY (2011)

As Hillary practices her speech, Theresa May sits in 10 Downing Street, the second female Prime Minister, having recently met with the most powerful leader in Europe, also a woman.

The foremother of this current crop of female leaders was, of course, Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher, embodied here by master impersonator, Meryl Streep.  Who, as it happens was also on the DNC convention stage a couple nights ago.

The structure of The Iron Lady is a fantastic set-up for a bravura performance by Streep.  A senile Thatcher flashes back and forth to days of glory and power.

For better and for worse, Streep’s performance is the reason to see the movie.  She pulls off Thatcher in power and in decline with equally astounding finesse.

What’s missing is a deeper portrait of what drove the human being in question.  In an effort to make Thatcher sympathetic and accessible the filmmaker and scriptwriter –Phyllida Lloyd and Abi Morgan — do her a grave injustice.  They neglect to give you a any insights into the personal and political forces that aligned to make Thatcher one of the most respected and despised leaders of the 20th century.

Google Play YouTube Amazon iTunes Vudu

 

 

Cleopatra
CLEOPATRA (1963)

The headline here is: better than you think it’s going to be.

In ’63 the drama surrounding the production – astronomical overruns, Taylor’s illness, the scandalous affair with Buron—overshadowed the movie itself.  The running time was slashed, the film was eviscerated, and even though it was the highest-grossing film that year, 20th Century took a staggering loss.

But if you’re willing to put in 4 hours watching Mankiewicz’ restored epic, it is truly an monumental achievement, and a tribute to the glories of non-CGI.  This was the last of its kind, an epic where the massive crowds were actually crowds.

Is it satisfying in terms of personal insights?  Here at The Thread suspect that the workings of Cleopatra’s mind are unknowable in modern psychological terms.  But this 60’s interpretation is ambitious, entertainingly plausible, and worth watching.

Especially when you consider that for two millennia Cleopatra has represented one of the only great models of female power available – empire through seduction.

Vudu YouTube Amazon iTunes Google Play

 

 

Elizabeth Mirren
ELIZABETH I (2005)

“I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married.”

Born the wrong sex at the right moment to one of the most flamboyantly patriarchal kings of history, Elizabeth I saw destiny coming and seized it to reign for 45 years over an era of British glory that was surpassed only by the lengthy reign of Victoria.

Our own era has found her irresistible – a complex character who preserved her power by taking “good counsel” in every area except her love life.  We’ve been entranced by both the Glenda Jackson miniseries from the ‘70s and the revisionist Cate Blanchett portrait.

But Helen Mirren was born to play Elizabeth in middle age – weary, embattled and unbowed.  This 2×2 hour miniseries that was made for the BBC and ran on HBO in the states, written by novelist Nigel Williams and directed by Tom Hooper (John Adams, The King’s Speech, Les  Miserables).

Even though Elizabeth seemed to have a better sense of how to play the crowd, Hillary seems to be every bit as inscrutable.  With a little time and distance history may come to regard her as complex and impenetrable as the Virgin Queen.

Too bad Mirren won’t be around to star in the miniseries.

Amazon Google Play Vudu iTunes

 

A Woman Named Golda
A WOMAN NAMED GOLDA (1982)

A truly great award-winning performance that’s caught in the headlights of a head-shaking disconnect:  Ingrid Bergman, in the last year of her life, as Golda Meier.  Bergman plays the grandmotherly yet intractable Meir with scene-stealing dignity.  The problem is that even under layers of age and character makeup, Bergman’s luminous beauty shines through, which stops us entirely believing her as the homely Meier.

This was a TV movie, made for syndication.  Bergman died of breast cancer the year it was released, and received both an Emmy and a Golden Globe posthumously.

Like all of these women who were able to break every precedent and mold,  what strikes you most about Golda here is how truly singular she was, riding a delicately balanced yet overpowering blend of ambition and accomplishment through a needle’s eye in history.

Once again the movie uses a frame  – Meier telling the story of her life to students at her old school in Milwaukee.

The young Golda is played by Judy Davis, almost unrecognizable in her first big role.  Her husband, Morris Meierson is a very recognizable Leonard Nimoy.  Like Bergman, even though he isn’t miscast and does a credible job, the very fact of who he is keeps popping you out of the scene.

Amazon YouTube

 

 

EVITA
EVITA (1996)

We consulted a bunch of Most Powerful Woman lists, and several included Madonna.  We thought it was weirdly indicative of the state of female power – Margaret Thatcher and Madonna on the same list.  But still, here we’ve got a Powerful Woman playing a Powerful Woman.

We’ve always wanted Madonna to be a more prolific actor (even though it’s obvious that just being Madonna is a full-time job).  And we’ve always thought Evita is the pinnacle of her acting career (even though she was way too old to play the young Evita – even older than Patty LuPone).

And yes, it is a superficial treatment of a complex woman.  But the reason we like the film are the parallels between Madonna and Eva (ambition, cunning at lost of hard work, all subsumed to the creation of an iconic image).  And we also think it speaks directly to the part of American politics that Hillary doesn’t quite get, but Bill does – making it look easy peasy even after you’ve stayed up until 2:30 working almost every night of your life.
After all, we live in a world where Che Guevara is best known for how good he looks on a t-shirt.

The Oscars passed her over, but the ever clear-eyed Golden Globes gave Madonna a Best Actress award.

Google Play YouTube  iTunes Vudu Amazon

 

FOODIE FOR THOUGHT

Elma Cremin

Co-Founder at Followthethread
A long-time fixture of New York’s glittering social scene, Miami’s jai lai courts, and the interstate highway system’s “big rigs,” Elma Cremin has spent her life absorbing all things pop culture.Movies, cult tv shows, documentaries, art, fashion—you cut her and she’ll bleed out in the colors of an Andy Warhol Brillo Pad box. Finally, after years of working inside the system with such networks as Sundance, Trio, Fuse TV and Ovation, she went “ghost protocol” and co-founded FollowTheThread in order to work outside the petty restraints of the industry and share her remarkable knowledge.

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It’s been over 50 years since Julia Child’s PBS show The French Chef launched the foodie revolution.

In this century, food shows have proliferated across the media landscape. Anthony Bourdain has wandered at will from network to network, Top Chef alums have launched restaurants all over the country, Gordon Ramsey has flamed across broadcast TV, and the Food Network has spun off both Cooking Channel and a successful magazine.  

Here at The Thread, we have not gone untouched by foodie obsession – our current one is Chef’s Table on Netflix. Check out the Francis Mallman episode! 

The result of all this media attention is the phenomenon of Chef as Rock Star – and in kitchens around the globe they’re whipping up “culinary porn” –intimately photographed, lovingly detailed, and spiced up with a dash of celebrity heat. 

This week we’ve picked five feature length documentaries that focus not just on food, but, on the passion it can inspire.

antshrimp ANTS ON A SHRIMP (2016) 

Filmmaker Maurice Dekkers gives foodies, critics and the masses a peek inside the kitchen and the mind of superstar Danish chef René Redzepi.

In January 2015, the food world held its breath as Redzepi temporarily closed Noma (named four times Best Restaurant In the World by Restaurant magazine). The doc follows him as he undertakes one of the biggest challenges of his career — transporting his entire team to Tokyo for a five-week pop-up restaurant. He creates a 14-course menu inspired by one of the most beautiful and forbidding countries in the world, and using only Japanese ingredients.

His global reputation hangs in the balance. Intense pressure, determined artists and impossible challenges flavor this once-in-a-lifetime feast for the eyes one’s eyes.

World culinary fame doesn’t come easy. The film focuses on the struggles of Redzepi’s staff to live up to his impossible standards – but they seem thrive on the challenge. As one of his chefs says “Our work is not to succeed but to fail day after day.” For Redzepi and crew this is good, good thing.

vimeo

nomaNOMA: MY PERFECT STORM (2015) 

Pierre Deschamps’ documentary Noma: My Perfect Storm, offers a more intimate picture of Redzepi’s career and philosophy, depicting his story as somewhat of a fairytale. He immigrated to Denmark from Macedonia with his family when he was a child. It was tough, but shaped his whole attach on life—ostracized in school for his background, it imbued in him the will to fight for what what he believes in.

After apprenticing at E Bulli, the legendary home of molecular gastronomy, Redzepi returned to his native Norway and radicalized Nordic cuisine, establishing a new edible world while revamping the image of the modern chef. After Noma lost the title of world’s best restaurant in 2013 he revamped his kitchen there, pushed his team mercilessly and came back to win the title again 2014 — for the fourth time.

iTunes    Netflix    Amazon    Vudu

jiroJIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (2012)

David Gelb (Chef’s Table) directs this documentary about Jiro Ono, the 85-year-old sushi master at Sukiyabashi Jiro, a tiny Michelin three-star restaurant. Jiro, who left home when he was 9, has given all his life to the Zen-like pursuit of perfection in his craft.

The film documents his sacrifices, the toll his ambition has taken on his personal life, and what it means to give your entire self over to your career and your obsession.  Sukiyabashi Jiro has only 10 seats, serves only sushi-and is located in a Tokyo subway station. But sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimages, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.

At the heart of this story is Jiro’s relationship with his eldest son Yoshikazu, a worthy heir to Jiro’s legacy, even though he’s unable to live up to his own full potential as long as he labors in his father’s shadow.

iTunes    Netflix    Vudu

For_Grace_photoFOR GRACE (2016)

Mark Helonowski and Kevin Pang direct this documentary about Curtis Duffy—one of America’s most renowned chefs and recipient of two coveted Michelin stars. Duffy first attracted national attention working for the demanding Charlie Trotter—once Chicago’s top modern chef. Apparently working with Trotter was a brutal experience, and while Duffy does not reveal too much about his time there, he was clearly scarred.

He left Trotter to work at Trio for Chef Grant Achatz, whose Alinea (three Michelin stars, often cited as top restaurant in the U.S.) is also featured in an episode of Chef’s Table. His time there was clearly warm and collaborative — Achatz appears in this film and is very complimentary of Duffy.

Duffy would go on to Avenues, where he earned many accolades and two Michelin stars. Duffy itched for a third star but felt he needed a new space. With partner, Michael Muser, he conceived his own restaurant, Grace. The second part of the documentary follows the building of the new restaurant from concrete box to its opening night.

We also revisit Duffy’s turbulent childhood—his home economics teacher Ruth Snider recognized his talent, giving him encouragement and helping Curtis find his vocation and escape–cooking. The film’s emotional climax is a horrific family tragedy that shatters the lives of Curtis and his two siblings.

iTunes    Netflix    Vudu

kings of pastryKINGS OF PASTRY (2009)

D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop, The War Room) direct this thrilling documentary—securing exclusive access to this never before filmed event.

Sixteen contenders seek the “MOF” (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France), France’s highest honor in the delicate art of patisserie. Vast amounts of sugar, butter and eggs – not to mention adrenaline – are poured into concocting gorgeous, delicious, otherworldy creations.

The film follows chef Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder of Chicago’s French Pastry School, as he journeys to his childhood home of Alsace to practice for the contest. During the competition itself, chefs work under continual scrutiny by master judges and their exacting tastes. The competitors race to deliver their creations without shattering them. It’s a suspenseful and thrilling quest for artistic perfection – overflowing with passion, sacrifice, frustration and joy – to become the Kings of Pastry.

Not for the faint hearted, Pastry pushes everyone to their limit—turning food into cinematic high drama, prompting one review to even call it “The culinary Hurt Locker.”

YouTube    Netflix    Amazon

spinningSPINNING PLATES (2013)

Joseph Levy directs Spinning Plates— following three extraordinary restaurants, the incredible people who drive them, and the tests they’ve overcome to achieve excellence.

Curtis Duffy’s mentor Grant Achatz of Alinea was faced with the diagnosis of mouth cancer and the prospect of never tasting food again.

Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown, Iowa had been run by the Breitbach family since 1852. Then disaster struck, not once but twice.

La Cocina de Gabby was a small Mexican restaurant in Tucson, always on the cusp of having to close the doors for good.

The stories are linked together by a few common threads: family, friends, and a love of food. Their unforgettable stories of family, legacy, passion and survival come together to reveal how meaningful food can be, and the power it has to connect us to one another.

iTunes    Amazon    Vudu