Ella Taylor

Ella Taylor is a freelance film critic, book reviewer and feature writer living in Los Angeles.

Born in Israel and raised in London, Taylor taught media studies at the University of Washington in Seattle; her book Prime Time Families: Television Culture in Post-War America was published by the University of California Press.

Taylor has written for Village Voice Media, the LA Weekly, The New York Times, Elle magazine and other publications, and was a regular contributor to KPCC-Los Angeles' weekly film-review show FilmWeek.

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Movie Reviews
4:33 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Into An 'Adult World,' With A Quirky Coterie To Assist

Emma Roberts is an aspiring poet, and John Cusack a played-out one, in the quirky comedy Adult World.
IFC Films

In the opening scene of Adult World, a modestly scaled comedy of the sort that littered the prime-time landscape before TV and film traded places, we meet Amy (Emma Roberts), a poet-yet-to-be with her head in a plastic bag. A poster of Sylvia Plath trembles with significance on her bedroom wall.

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Movie Reviews
4:02 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

The Holocaust Recalled, Again, Through The Eyes Of 'The Unjust'

In 1975, Shoah director Claude Lanzmann interviewed Benjmain Murmelstein, the last surviving Elder of the Jews of the Czech Theresienstadt ghetto, at his home in Rome. The resulting film is The Last of the Unjust.
Cohen Media Group

With a running time of more than nine hours, Claude Lanzmann's monumental 1985 documentary, Shoah, was never destined to become a mass audience draw. But this sober, taxing, utterly absorbing attempt to document the Holocaust grows ever more essential precisely as our collective memory is increasingly eroded by the reductive shorthand of emaciated bodies or piles of shoes discarded by concentration-camp inmates as they went to their terrible fate. For Lanzmann, understanding trumps empathy.

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Movie Reviews
4:02 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

On Campus, Two Weary Souls Find A Spark To Kindle

Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga star as two weary strangers who meet — and spark mutual midlife awakenings — while taking their kids on a college tour.
Anchor Bay Films

Long after many another serviceable movie premise has gone to its grave, the brief encounter will live and be well.

Talk about an unbeatable package: Nothing more urgently captures the disappointment of lives congealed by routine than does the sudden midlife romance; nothing so pointedly speaks to the undying desire for completion by another who understands and accepts us as no one else does; nothing so completely resounds with the fantasy of escape. And nothing so neatly contains all that unruly desire within the 11th-hour return to common sense and responsible self-sacrifice.

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Movie Reviews
4:02 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Moving Through Middle Age, With A Song In Her Heart

Paulina Garcia was awarded the Silver Bear for Best Actress at last year's Berlin International Film Festival for her role in Gloria.
Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 1:38 pm

The Chilean matron at the heart of the wonderfully unsettling comedy Gloria looks like any ordinary woman confronting the familiar dilemmas of late middle age. For other reasons, though, you may feel as though you've met her before.

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Movie Reviews
5:02 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Love And Struggle In The Shadow Of The Third Reich

The sprawling drama Generation War follows a range of characters — a Nazi officer and his brother, a nurse, an aspiring singer and her Jewish boyfriend — through Germany during World War II.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 9:08 am

Knee-deep already in collective scrutiny of its painful World War II history, Germany wades in up to its own neck with a viscerally unsparing drama — originally a TV miniseries — set to screen in two parts in selected U.S. theaters.

Generation War tracks five jaunty young childhood friends as they prepare to scatter from a Berlin bar in 1941 to do their bit for the Thousand Year Reich. With Kristallnacht fresh in memory and Stalingrad looming, you'd think even these frisky young things might know better than to expect to reunite unscathed for Christmas.

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Movie Reviews
4:02 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Mommy Issues Writ Large For A Troubled Teen

Kaya Scodelario plays a melodramatic teenager obsessed with her mother's death in The Truth About Emanuel, the second film from director Francesca Gregorini.
Tribeca Film

What's a domestic melodrama without a mom to kill off, to sicken, to render monstrous or otherwise AWOL?

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Movie Reviews
5:57 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

In 'Lone Survivor,' Heroics Extend Only As Far As Survival, Solidarity

Mark Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor.
Universal Pictures

We are awash in war films, and why is it that nonfiction films such as Dirty Wars or Iraq in Fragments increasingly resort to the dramatizing techniques of narrative film, while fiction films strain toward procedure, as if to avoid the sticky business of interpretation altogether?

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Movie Reviews
1:58 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Orbiting Dickens, An 'Invisible Woman' Or Two

Felicity Jones plays Nelly Ternan, longtime mistress of author Charles Dickens, in The Invisible Woman.
David Appleby Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Tue December 24, 2013 4:40 pm

The Invisible Woman is slow to build — but worth its wait in gold. A little over halfway through, this terrific drama bears fiercely down on the steep cost of being two of the significant women in the gilded life of Charles Dickens.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

LaBute's 'Velvet Morning': Nothing Soft About These Surfaces

When Fred (Stanley Tucci) shows up on the doorstep of his former lover (Alice Eve) ready to resume their relationship, it doesn't necessarily go smoothly.
Rogier Stoffers Tribeca Film

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 9:43 am

I'll say this for Neil LaBute: The man sticks to his guns. Critics may carp about his sour vision of human nature, but he keeps plugging away at his micro-studies of the cruel struggle for interpersonal domination.

LaBute is a master of stagecraft, of course; I'm not sure why he works in film at all, other than to broaden his audience. Aside from the substantially more cinematic Nurse Betty, almost all of his movies are essentially stage plays, ably transposed to the screen but with minimal concession to the switch in medium.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Making 'Mary Poppins,' With More Than A Spoonful Of Sugar

Saving Mr. Banks chronicles Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) long campaign to persuade Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to allow his movie-musical adaptation of her books.
Francois Duhamel Walt Disney Pictures

Originally published on Fri December 13, 2013 2:42 pm

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live."

That endlessly quoted line from Joan Didion's The White Album echoes with more than the usual resonance for the two adversaries duking it out for control over the movie adaptation of Mary Poppins in Saving Mr. Banks.

For 20 years Walt Disney, reportedly on his young daughters' say-so, had tried to wrestle a green light from P. L. Travers, who wrote the original novels about the discipline-minded governess who flew in through a London window to save a troubled family from itself.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Among Israeli Teens, Complicated Questions Of Consent

In S#x Acts, Gili (Sivan Levy) transfers to a new school and takes up with more than one of her fellow students, and the lines of consent and blame begin to get blurred.
Tribeca Film

It's hard to think of a social issue more certain to drive people into blinkered encampment than the question of sexual consent. There are times when "no means no" seems like an incomplete response to an enormously touchy problem — especially as it affects teenagers, a demographic not known for prudent lust management.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 28, 2013

Silent For Years, A Riot Grrrl Steps Back To The Mic

Musician and riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna — formerly of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, now with The Julie Ruin — is the fascinating central figure in the biographical documentary The Punk Singer.
Allison Michael Orenstein Opening Band Films

Originally published on Thu November 28, 2013 5:29 pm

To many baffled outsiders over 40, Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna was a weirdo riot grrrl bopping up and down onstage in her bra and panties, bellowing atonal revenge lyrics at anyone who'd keep her and her fellow women down.

To her ardent young following of 1990s Third Wave feminists, though, Hanna was an alt Messiah, hacking out a space for women in the punk-rock mosh pit and sounding an enraged alarm on behalf of victims of sexual assault.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

A Side Of Bettie Page You've (Somehow) Never Seen

Bettie Page Reveals All digs deep into the storied life of the 1950s model, seen here in one of the many photos featured in the documentary.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 5:03 pm

A tantalizing nugget lies half-buried in Mark Mori's engaging documentary about Bettie Page, the 1950s pinup who's inspired an endlessly self-renewing retro-cult of fans both male and female.

In the middle of a screening of Mary Harron's The Notorious Bettie Page, it seems, a voice was heard yelling "Lies! All lies!"

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Movie Reviews
4:02 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

A Rome Portrait, And What A 'Great Beauty'!

In The Great Beauty, aging journalist and cynic Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) is forced to look back on his own lavish life after a former love dies.
Gianni Fiorito Janus Films

The ghost of Federico Fellini hovers wickedly over The Great Beauty, a fantastic journey around contemporary Rome and a riot of lush imagery juggling past and present, sacred and profane, gorgeous and grotesque.

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Movie Reviews
4:03 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

One Big Lie, And All Of Lance Armstrong's Others

Alex Gibney's documentary started as a flattering profile of competitive cyclist Lance Armstrong, but all that changed after Armstrong admitted to years of doping — and lying to everyone about it.
Frank Marshall Sony Pictures Classics

"I didn't live a lot of lies. But I did live one big one. It's different, I guess. Maybe not."

So said disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong to filmmaker Alex Gibney early this year, just hours after he confessed to Oprah that he'd doped during his seven wins of the Tour de France.

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