‘The Glorias’ Shows Off Some Good and Some Bad Habits of Biopic Filmmaking

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Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander, Julianne Moore, Gloria Steinem, and Director Julie Taymor behind the scenes of “The Glorias” (CREDIT: Dan McFadden/LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions)

Starring: Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Lulu Wilson, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Timothy Hutton, Janelle Monáe, Bella Abzug, Lorraine Toussaint, Enid Graham, Kimberly Guerrero, Monica Sanchez, Margo Moorer

Director: Julie Taymor

Running Time: 139 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Language and a Nude Image

Release Date: September 30, 2020 (Amazon Prime Video)

I’m of the mind that biopics – that most staid of movie genres – ought to be a little bit wacky. Or A LOT wacky. And the Julia Taymor-directed The Glorias is undoubtedly wacky. Or maybe, it’s exactly as it should be, and it’s everything else that’s askew. The subject is Gloria Steinem, one of the most famous activists in American history, so I’m sure she can appreciate an approach that breaks the mold. Taymor ditches a strictly chronological approach by having all four of the actors playing Gloria frequently interact with each other. Ryan Kiera Armstrong (young Gloria), Lulu Wilson (teen Gloria), Alicia Vikander (young adult Gloria), and Julianne Moore (older adult Gloria) are all presented as passengers on a ride heading to the promise of Steinem’s life’s work. It’s a journey that’s still ongoing as conversations between the past and present remain passionate and relevant.

Taymor fills The Glorias with occasional flights of fantastical whimsy that reminded me a fair bit of Rocketman, the most exuberant biopic in recent memory. These include a sexist interview that turns into an encounter with all four Glorias as witches, and a moment of frustration leading to Gloria running along a series of seemingly endless M.C. Escher-style roads. These moments are fascinating on their own, but they’re a bit too scattered throughout to really pack as powerful a punch as they possibly could.

The Glorias also has plenty of much more prosaic moments, and that mix of straightforward and roundabout results in a running time that clocks in thickly at nearly two and a half hours. Some of the episodes in the 1970s section, like the founding of Ms. Magazine, were also recently covered more excitingly in the FX on Hulu miniseries Mrs. America. Taymor has bitten off plenty (which is what happens when you try to cover the entire arc of someone who’s lived for nearly 90 years), and she chews as much of it as she can. When she manages to really dig in, it’s a fine fiesta to behold. You just have to deal with the messier edges if you want to find the fun.

The Glorias is Recommended If You Like: Filmmaking that’s plenty ambitious but also a little messy

Grade: 3 out of 5 Marches

This Is a Movie Review: Annabelle: Creation

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Annabelle: Creation really takes a while to ramp up the intensity. Like, at least an hour, maybe even an hour-fifteen, into its running time, at which point it finally starts ripping limbs and tearing faces apart enough to (barely) justify its R rating. That is kind of crazy given the relentless standard set by the previous Conjuring/Annabelle films. In the prelude, there are a lot of lingering close-ups and light/dark interplay in which you have plenty of time to uncover the agents of evil lurking in the fuzzy shadows. Ultimately, Creation is most valuable for how it expands the mythology, favoring a harmonically mind-bending approach that calls to mind the latter-day Paranormal Activity sequels.

I give Annabelle: Creation 5 Broken Fingers Around a Cross in Every Frame.

This Is a Movie Review: Ouija: Origin of Evil

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A bit of fanfare has been made director Mike Flanagan’s use of split diopter shots and insistence on inserting cigarette burns in the corner of the screen in Ouija: Origin of Evil. These techniques work with the retro vibe in this ’60s-set horror prequel, but this is more than just aesthetic fetishism. They speak to the great care given to constructing the whole film. You’ll see the denizens of the spirit world lurking around the corners, and occasionally bursting into the foreground, but only when you are damn well supposed to.

The fact that Ouija: Origin of Evil is so thorough might lead viewers to make some faulty conclusions and connections, which may just be intentional, and even if they are not, they are still disorienting in a way that great horror often is. One of the main girls is played by Annalise Basso, who was previously in the underrated Oculus, also directed by Flanagan. As Ouija becomes increasingly trippier, it almost feels like Basso is playing the same character she did in (the very trippy) Oculus. Of course, Origin of Evil is actually a prequel to another Ouija movie, but not very many people saw that and I imagine those who did promptly forgot about it.

Much of the success of Origin of Evil rests on the little shoulders of Lulu Wilson, who plays the younger and more possessed of the two main girls. She continues a long and vaunted tradition of creepy horror kids, establishing her own place in this hall of fame by adding hints of nonchalance and ace comic timing. There is one moment when she replaces the second half of an oft-repeated mantra with “blah blah blah,” which is liable to floor viewers with an unexpected chuckle. This film does not reinvent the supernatural genre, but it never lets you take it easy.

I give Ouija: Origin of Evil 8 Skeletons out of 10 Crawlspaces.