Archive for January 20, 2014

Dear White People thankfully tells it like it really is

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Dear White People

Director Justin Simien debuted his first feature film, Dear White People, at Sundance Sunday yesterday.

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Dear White People takes us into an all-black dorm at a fictional Ivy League school during a time when the campus is struggling with race relations.

The film ultimately tells the story of young people of color having to live in a racist society that calls itself post-racial. Very real conversations about everything from Tyler Perry movies and black hair to interracial relationships and black politicians/presidents make this a hilarious comedy that attacks very real issues.

In the beginning, there is an election for “Head of House” or leader of the dorm, and controversial black power feminist Samantha “Sam” White runs against Troy, the clean-cut incumbent who is also her ex-boyfriend. In one scene Sam slyly says that she doesn’t think she will win because Big Mama 3 exists.

Throughout the film, Sam speaks openly about the farce of female sexuality in the media and in society. In that way, this film is one of the most important I’ve seen at Sundance so far and probably the most quotable too since it contains lines like this gem: “Dear White People, the amount of black friends required not to seem racist has just been raised to two.”

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Teyonah Parris (who plays Coco in DEAR WHITE PEOPLE) with Leah at the Sundance Film Festival.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Female friendship and nostalgia in Forever Not Alone

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Forever Not Alone

Forever Not Alone premiered at Slamdance, a local film festival that occurs around the same time as Sundance.

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This documentary, directed by Monja Art and Caroline Bobek, follows a group of 13- to 14-year-old girls as they explore the intimacy of friendship at such a young age, specifically how young girls perceive sex, music, and life.

The film causes the viewer to feel a good deal of yearning. I certainly felt nostalgia for my youth as I was reminded of what it’s like to be young: trading makeup and secrets, losing friends as they move away, and talking about sex (but only in reference to what I read in Seventeen magazine).

The girls compliment each other appropriately and lift each other up in the way good family should. This is because, in their world, they are family, and it only becomes evident that time is fleeting when the summer’s end brings about the news of moving vans and new schools.

Forever Not Alone is a beautiful documentary that is simultaneously funny, sad, and sweet.

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Western Kentucky University students Ryan Duvall, Leah, and Maggie Woodward waiting to see a film at the Sundance Film Festival.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Laggies gives us something we really need: a story about two female friends figuring out who they are

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Laggies

Laggies, directed by Lynn Shelton, is a witty and sweet movie that focuses on the unlikely friendship of a 28-year-old woman and a teenage girl.

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Megan (Kiera Knightly) and Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) are characters who mirror each other in that Megan’s behavior is much like that of an adolescent. She has crushes, partakes in casual sex, and stays out late at night, reminding the viewer of the similarities adults often forget they have with young people.

The movie also conveys how often women feel they must put on a facade to live up to expectations in their lives. In Megan’s case, her facade consists of going to seminars and getting married and losing a sense of individuality through her boyfriend. For Annika, it is the fear of being vulnerable that holds her back from letting someone get close to her.

Laggies is a wonderful coming of age film about two young women—a teenager and a twenty-something—figuring out who they are.

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Leah with Western Kentucky Professor Dawn Hall
at the Sundance Film Festival

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

HitRECord delivers with real, diverse people

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HitRECord on TV

The screening of the first three episodes of HitRECord on TV also showed on Friday at Sundance.

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In this new series, director and producer Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s production company has created a wonderful variety show that views like a motion picture version of a zine.

What I like about HitRECord is that all of the people are just normal everyday people. They don’t live in Hollywood, they don’t look Hollywood, but they are still wonderfully interesting.

Another thing I appreciate about the show is, because it features non-Hollywood people, the representation of minority groups is far better than anything else I’ve seen at Sundance so far. People of different ethnicities, races, disabilities, and talents were all featured. In that way, the representation of diverse groups is phenomenal.

The biggest problem I have is that Gordon-Levitt and other Hollywood actors star in a lot of the short films even though I’m sure there are other HitRECord contributors that can act as well. It would have been much cooler to see everyday people actually acting.

The first three episodes take on various themes and topics. Beauty and sexuality are both talked about in various ways based on each person’s experience, and it will be interesting to see where the show goes with these issues.

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Overall this was a wonderful experience, and it didn’t hurt that the very talented Gordon-Levitt was there in the flesh, right in front of me.

 

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Western Kentucky University faculty and students at the Sundance Film Festival. Left to right: Professor Ted Hovet, Maggie Woodward, Leah, and Professor Dawn Hall.

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

Kicking off the Sundance Film Festival with the bad mother trope in The Babadook

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When I first arrived in Park City, the town was as sleepy as it normally is throughout the year, but as soon as the Festival started on Thursday, I was surrounded by tall, skinny—or, for the men, fit—people who all looked like models, actors, and snazzy business people.

Now that I have somewhat acclimated to the climate, the busy buzzing industry people, and the area around me, I can begin to let my first movies sink in.

 

The Babadook

the-babadook-4-600x381First off, my favorite film on Friday was probably The Babadook. Directed by Jennifer Kent, the film stars Essie Davis as Amelia and Noah Wiseman as her son Samuel. The film debuted in the “Park City at Midnight” category, which fits the festival’s thrilling insomniac theme.

The Babadook is a film about a woman who loses her husband on the way to the hospital to deliver her son. This accident overshadows the rest of their lives, especially when the son becomes obsessed with “The Babadook,” a character in a children’s book.

The film wasn’t too frightening, but it takes on a topic that is scary because of its ubiquity. The movie, I quickly realized, was a psychological thriller about a woman battling her inner demons. What makes this film less Black Swan and more Mama is the terrific lethal boogey monster that can possess people like a demon.

Besides providing us with another “bad mother” story, Kent shows us a vulnerable woman who finds strength in herself with the help of her son, and therein lies the strength of this film.

Amelia is no Katniss Everdeen or Sidney Prescott. Instead this woman is tired, unstable, and in mourning for most of the film. The only time we see her strength is at the very end after she’s grown as a result of what’s happened to her.

Amelia isn’t sexualized either, but instead sexually frustrated and finding refuge in a vibrator; she isn’t a Hollywood belle either, but a woman who looks exhausted as she should. And the film portrays a struggling single mother in a way that is very sad and in no way glamourous or romanticized.

I mostly enjoyed this film, even if it did play like an overdramatized Abilify commercial. I could have done without Amelia’s obnoxious and sexist co-worker who makes immature remarks like when he tells her to go “in the kitchen, just where I like my women.”

Overall this is a movie that I would suggest one should rent on a cold night—you won’t be too afraid to watch it, but you might hesitate closing your eyes.

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Leah (in red on the right) with her Western Kentucky University classmates at the Sundance Film Festival

LEAH RAILEY is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Born and raised in Georgia, Leah considers Kentucky her second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

The best moments at this year’s Golden Globes
… a.k.a. Take that, mani-cam!

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The Golden Globes were last Sunday night, and though there were a few disappointments, it was mostly a great night for women (a fact one NY Post reporter actually had the hutzpah to complain about).

 

THE HIGHLIGHTS

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On the red carpet, one of the stars of Mad Men summed up how we all feel about the head-to-toe scrutiny of women when Elisabeth Moss flipped off their ridiculous E! mani-cam. Thank you, Elizabeth, for doing what we all want to do on the red carpet. Lord knows how many times I’ve flipped off the mani-cam and the glam-o-strator and the 360 degree room and whatever other bullshit they come up with to reduce women to their looks. And, wow, was it fun to see Giuliana Rancic freak out like that.

 

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During the ceremony, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler KILLED it with an outrageously funny opening “monologue” and other hilarious bits throughout the evening including a great rejoinder to the inherent sexism of “Miss Golden Globe” by pretending Fey had an illegitmate son who was the night’s “Mr. Golden Globe.”

They didn’t shy away from women’s body issues either, explaining that “For The Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey lost forty pounds. Or what actresses call being in a movie” and encouraging the men to “kick off your shoes, try on the ladies’, and see how awful they are.”

 

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Men who date younger women got BURNED when Tina and Amy introduce Gravity as “the story of how George Clooney would rather float away and die than spend one more minute with a woman his age.”

 

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Philomena Lee stood up for solidarity among women, saying that the movie based on her life is “not just about me; it is about all the women who have still not gotten justice.”

 

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Emma Thompson showed us what it means to be a strong woman in Hollywood when she came out to present an award carrying her high heels in one hand and a martini in another. “That red you see is my blood,” Thompson said as she held up her shoes, eventually chucking them behind her.

 

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Several winners called attention to how much their mothers helped them, including Amy Adams and Matthew McConaughey.

 

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Amy Poehler won best actress in a television comedy for playing feminist Leslie Knope on Parks & Rec! As one of my friends said, I don’t know who to love more—Amy Poehler or Leslie Knope—because both are such wonderful role models for women.

 

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Amy Poehler made out with Bono after her name was called, finally getting revenge for what Adrian Brody did to Halle Berry at the 2002 Oscars.

 

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Diane Keaton continued to challenge gender roles 37 years after she first did it in Annie Hall by wearing a men’s suit to accept the honorary Globe for Woody Allen.

 

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Melissa McCarthy presented an award, and no one made any jokes about her body. It’s the small things, isn’t it?

 

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Jimmy Fallon and Melissa McCarthy had phenomenal chemistry, making me believe they could star in a rom com together about a skinny dude and a bigger woman. Come on, Hollywood, make it happen!

 

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Robin Wright ran to the stage in her giant heels, proving that women can do anything, and despite what Meryl Streep’s character said in August: Osage County, Wright canoodled with fiance Ben Foster, showing that women really DO get better with age.

 

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Okay, I admit this one isn’t related to gender or body issues, but I also loved it when, in a moment of rare Hollywood camraderie, the cast/crew of 12 Years a Slave helped director Steve McQueen remember who to thank when he won Best Dramatic Motion Picture.

 

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THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

In addition to all the normal annoyance on the Red Carpet (including the aforementioned mani-cam, glam-o-strator, and 360-degree camera), a new tradition was introduced in which entertainment reporters repeatedly asked celebrities how much their jewels were worth, highlighting how out of touch Americans are with the state of the world.

Parks & Rec, one of the smartest television shows about a strong woman EVER, lost the Golden Globe for Best Television Comedy to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Really, Hollywood Foreign Press? Really????!!!!!!

Diane Keaton made us cringe by reducing the female actresses in Woody Allen’s film to “Woody’s Women” and then desecrating A GIRL SCOUTS’ SONG ABOUT FEMALE FRIENDSHIP by singing it in tribute to Allen.

And possibly most important of all, the Hollywood Foreign Press ignored all of the amazing movies made by women this year. In fact, not one woman was nominated for Best Director or Best Screenplay even though 2013 brought us excellent films written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Lake Bell, Greta Gerwig, Sarah Polley, Sofia Coppola, Julie Delpy, and many more.

An annual tradition… my year-end non-resolutions

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A grainy pic of me and the husband on New Year’s Eve this year.

 

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions in 2010 because I realized that resolutions focus too much on what we’ve done wrong rather than what we’ve done right.

Every year since then I’ve made a list of “non-resolutions,” that is a list of things that I accomplished over the past year that made me happy and proud.

(If you like, you can still read my non-resolutions from 2011, 2012, and 2013.)

This year the task of figuring out what made me happy and proud over the past twelve months has proven harder than ever before. That’s because this year I completed my most recent book project (a memoir about meeting my biological family) but still haven’t been able to find a publisher for it.

After working on that one single project for 4 1/2 years, it’s difficult to accept the fact that it may not get published.

But the truth is it may not.

As a result of that realization, I made a big change in my life and that’s what led me to my first non-resolution…

1) I’m most proud of the fact that this past summer I decided to make writing fiction my top priority so that I wouldn’t have to spend 4 1/2 years writing another book that didn’t get published. Instead I’ve committed to writing a book a year with the hope that if one of those books doesn’t get published, it won’t be as devastating as it has been when a book I worked on for YEARS doesn’t.

2) I feel truly lucky to be in a healthy marriage with a loving and supportive spouse who really gets me. And I feel equally lucky to have SO MANY great family members and friends that I don’t even have enough time to see them all in a given year.

3) I’m glad that I’m starting to learn to let things roll off of me a bit more. Those petty arguments we have with friends and family? They’re just not getting to me as much, and I’m not engaging with the drama that comes with those relationships, which is making me MUCH happier.

4) I’m also happy that I’ve continued to work out almost every single day, and I’ve added biking and swimming to my regular mix of walking, running, and going to boot camp.

5) I’m pleased, too, that I have continued to reject the notion that being skinny is more important than being healthy. I lost a few pounds this year, but some days those lost pounds show up on the scale like that loser ex-boyfriend who still writes on your Facebook wall twenty years after you dumped him. On those days, I just remind myself I’d rather be healthy than worry about a few measly little pounds (and to block said ex-boyfriend on Facebook).

That’s it for me this year!

I sincerely hope that you can take a few minutes today to focus on what you did RIGHT last year too.

Trust me, it feels REALLY good to do so.

Molly

A new year, a new beginning

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I Will Not Diet has gone through some changes this year… some exciting changes and some nervewracking changes, but hopefully all changes that are for the better.

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First and foremost, I Will Not Diet is growing. For the first time ever, we’re hiring an intern. Yay!!!!!! I could not be more happy about this development.

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Our new intern is Leah Railey (pictured above), a senior at Western Kentucky University who is majoring in creative writing and minoring in gender and women’s studies. Leah was born and raised in Georgia, but considers Kentucky a second home. In her free time, Leah watches Netflix and Hulu (her favorite show right now is Scandal) and claims she reads too many fashion magazines. She has written articles for zines and the WKU Herald, focusing on issues relating to race, class, and gender.

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Second—and this is really thrilling for me to tell you about—Leah will be attending the Sundance Film Festival this month and reporting back here in a mini-series of posts called “Gender, Body, & Sexuality at Sundance.”

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Look for her posts in the second half of January.

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Third—and I tell you this bit of news with the most regret—we’ll no longer be posting every Tuesday and Thursday but rather at random. This is a hard and scary decision for me to make, but if you haven’t noticed, I’ve been struggling to keep up with that schedule over the past few months as I’m trying to focus more on my book projects and less on blogging. I’m not giving up blogging altogehter, but I do want to shift my attention a bit, which is part of the reason Leah is coming on board.

That’s all for now, folks, but I’ll post my annual non-resolutions soon!

Happy new year!

Molly

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