Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Movie with Abe: 93Queen

Directed by Paula Eiselt
Released July 25, 2018

Especially in today’s society, in which civil liberties and rights for those with no voice are emphasized and demanded through social media and global campaigns, cultural dynamics that favor one set of people over another are often a source of great scorn and criticism. While those outside the situation may perceive a certain inequality, there may be a more complex truth at the root of it, with that seemingly marginalized group expressing an altogether different notion of resistance that might surprise those eager to lobby on their behalf.

“93Queen” tells the story of Ruchie Freier, a resident of Borough Park in Brooklyn, who worked to help create Ezras Nashim, the first all-female volunteer ambulance corps in New York City. The Hasidic mother of six already stands out in her community as a trained lawyer, and her quest to develop a program for religious women to be able to be met in emergent moments, mainly childbirth, by fellow women rather than men, is met with much hostility, seen as an affront to the already existent, all-male Hatzolah volunteer ambulance corps.

Support for this effort isn’t hard to find among women in the community, and what proves most interesting is their outlook on what they are trying to achieve. Ruchie and her fellow trailblazers decry labels of feminism, claiming that such attitudes seek to achieve an equilibrium between the sexes that has no place in traditional observant Judaism. She still believes that she and the other women are completely capable of being trained and providing a valuable service, though she at one moment suggests that things would have been so much easier had God just made her a man since it wouldn’t all be such a struggle.

One commonplace element of films, both fiction and nonfiction, that deal with observant religion in general and Judaism in particular, is that to become successful and happy requires a sacrifice, or at least compromise, of beliefs. That comes up at no point throughout this documentary, with Ruchie seen frequently praying, preparing home-cooked meals for her family every day, and politely explaining to non-Jewish men at a conference that she isn’t able to shake their hands. To Ruchie, what she is doing is fulfilling her purpose in this world, using her religious anchor to propel her to the most meaningful work she can do.

“93Queen,” from Orthodox female filmmaker Paula Eiselt, gets to the heart of the Hasidic community in Borough Park, offering an incredible level of access and providing subtitles to define the Yiddish and Hebrew words used frequently by the women interviewed so that it can be easily understood by any audience without compromising or diluting the authenticity of its subject population. Freier is a fascinating central figure for a film about an arduous, inspiring journey to create something that seemed unfathomable yet managed to come into existence in the incredible way skillfully documented here.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD and Netflix. I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below.

Now Playing in Theatres

Blindspotting (highly recommended): This film serves as one of two worthy successors to “Get Out” that started as Sundance, and this is the much better of the two. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal are both terrific as remnants of a pre-gentrified society trying to fit in – and stay out of trouble – as the world evolves around them in a stunningly electric and energizing film. Now playing at AMC Lincoln Square and the Angelika. Read my review from Sundance.

New to DVD

Disobedience (highly recommended): Spectacular performances from Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, and Alessandro Nivola accentuate this captivating look at a forbidden relationship in a religious community.

You Were Never Really Here (mixed bag): Not to be confused for a sequel to the documentary I’m Still Here, also with Joaquin Phoenix, the latest film from director Lynne Ramsay is a violent revenge thriller that doesn’t really know where it’s going despite its altruistic aims.

Now Available on Instant Streaming

Enemy (recommended): Jake Gyllenhaal does impressive double duty as a man who sees someone who looks just like him in a movie and becomes obsessed with finding him. The film, from director Denis Villeneuve, has a great suspenseful feel throughout, and it’s a captivating story that’s easy to get into and hard to shake.

Laggies (mixed bag): I wanted to like this dramedy with odd couple Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz as a twentysomething and a high schooler who inexplicably become friends. It’s that central logic that’s missing here in a peculiar but somewhat entertaining story. The reason to see this, of course, is Sam Rockwell, continuing his domination of comedies with his singular personality.

Locke (recommended): Director Steven Knight and actor Tom Hardy achieve a brilliant success in unconventional cinema in this 85-minute car ride, which screened at Sundance in 2014 and features only a terrific Hardy on screen as a man whose life is falling apart over the phone as he drives home from work.

Obvious Child (recommended): This comedy, which played at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, is most notable for giving comedian Jenny Slate a lead role, playing a part perfect for her. The film around her isn’t always as strong, but she’s great and should have a bright and funny future.

Room (highly recommended): This incredible drama won lead actress Brie Larson a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of a mother locked in a small room with her young son, played by the equally excellent Jacob Tremblay, whose outlook on the world remains exceptionally positive despite their circumstances.

The Spectacular Now (recommended): This dramedy features terrific performances from young stars Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley earlier in their careers. It’s not a typical high school movie but at times proves to be very effective.

Spring Breakers (anti-recommended): I really didn’t care for this stylized look at criminality featuring a weird performance from James Franco, though it’s worth noting that many did go crazy for it. It’s a unique experience, to be sure, but one that feels more off-putting than anything else.

Zoe (recommended): Léa Seydoux and Ewan McGregor star in this futuristic drama about the hot topic of artificial intelligence that, like so many other projects about the same subject, explores what it means to be programmed to do one thing and to take charge of your own future. Now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe (Mega Edition)

Welcome back to a weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I'm going to be providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in theatres as well as several films newly released on DVD and Netflix. I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below.

Now Playing in Theatres

Boundaries (highly recommended)
Leave No Trace (highly recommended)
The Catcher Was a Spy (recommended)
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (recommended)
Woman Walks Ahead (recommended)
Sorry to Bother You (mixed bag)

New to DVD

The Death of Stalin (highly recommended)
Flower (highly recommended)
Beauty and the Dogs (recommended)
Beirut (recommended)
Keep the Change (recommended)
Sweet Country (recommended)
The Endless (mixed bag):
Where Is Kyra? (anti-recommended)

Now Available on Instant Streaming

Duck Butter (highly recommended)
Gone Baby Gone (highly recommended)
Star Wars The Last Jedi (highly recommended)
Blue Valentine (recommended)
The Last Laugh (recommended)
The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter (recommended)
Traitor (mixed bag)
We Own the Night (anti-recommended)