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
5:03 pm
Thu July 23, 2015

'Phoenix': An Unconventional Noir About Two Troubled Pasts

Ronald Zehrfeld (Johnny) and Nina Hoss (Nelly) in Christian Petzold's Phoenix.
Christian Schulz/Schramm Film IFC Films

When Christian Petzold makes a thriller, it's nothing like the jokey, disclaiming neo-noirs we see so much of these days. His movies, set in critical periods of German history, are also love letters to the classic film noirs of Hollywood's Golden Age: The Postman Always Rings Twice looms over his 2008 film Jerichow, which features his longtime muse, Nina Hoss, as a woman with a crippling secret who plots murder with an Afghanistan war veteran.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 16, 2015

An Aging And Soulful 'Mr. Holmes' Puts A New Spin On Sherlock

Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes.
Agatha A. Nitecka Miramax/Roadside Attractions

Originally published on Fri July 17, 2015 3:19 pm

For a man said to possess neither the appetite nor the skills required for human connection, Sherlock Holmes has, in most of his incarnations, enjoyed a solid support system, haters included. Well, forget that: The team and the haters are all gone in Bill Condon's bittersweetly revisionist Mr. Holmes. Watson appears only from the waist down — don't ask. Dear, departed Mrs. Hudson is succeeded by Mrs.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 9, 2015

A Documentarian Wonders: 'Do I Sound Gay?'

Filmmaker David Thorpe (middle) explores whether there's such a thing as a "gay voice."
IFC

In the wake of a bad breakup, journalist and gay activist David Thorpe did what many of us do: He took intense inventory of his own flaws and insecurities, then stepped up one of them into a Thing. A good Thing, as it turns out, whose end result is the charming documentary Do I Sound Gay?, in which Thorpe wryly treats his anxieties about his "gay" voice as an exercise in self-improvement, and winds up with a compelling portrait of internalized homophobia and liberation.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

Beyond A Voice And A Sad Story, 'Amy' Listens To A Life

Amy Winehouse
A24

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 6:54 pm

Booze, drugs, Svengalis galore, rampant co-dependence: The bare bones of a crash-and-burn rocker bio-pic poke through Asif Kapadia's richly absorbing documentary about the short, sharp life of Amy Winehouse. Here and there Amy flirts with prurience, but prurience is hard to avoid with a young woman who, willy-nilly, lived her private life in public. And if ever there was an artist whose life and work fed one another for better and worse, it was Winehouse.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

A Wavy Line Between Fantasy And Reality In 'The Little Death'

Kate Mulvany and Damon Herriman in The Little Death.
Magnolia Pictures

Ah, suburbia: the place where buried desires come out to play and wreak havoc with bourgeois conformity. Or at least they do in movies. There's no swinging in Josh Lawson's cheeky sex comedy, The Little Death, but the Bob and Carol and Ted et al. whose carnal breakouts it tracks are all mired in troubled unions that range from the humdrum to the bored and neglected to the disturbing. In all cases, orgasm is in great demand but in short supply, which accounts for the movie's sly title, translated from the French.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 18, 2015

One 'Overnight,' Two Couples, Countless Boundaries Violated

Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling in The Overnight.
John Geleserian The Orchard

Originally published on Thu June 25, 2015 5:31 pm

"I thought you wanted to loosen up," Charlotte (Judith Godrèche) asks Alex (Adam Scott) close to the end of Patrick Brice's The Overnight. "I do," Alex replies warily. "But I guess I'm just wondering what loosen up means at this point."

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 18, 2015

Difficult Times With A Difficult Father In 'Infinitely Polar Bear'

Mark Ruffalo, Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide in Infinitely Polar Bear.
Claire Folger Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 7:26 pm

Cam Stuart (Mark Ruffalo), the bipolar father of two at the center of Maya Forbes' amiable domestic comedy Infinitely Polar Bear, comes to us attired in a scarlet swimsuit with matching bandana as he bangs furiously on the window of a car containing his departing wife, Maggie (Zoe Saldana), and small daughters Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide). When his family visits soon after, Cam is an institutionalized zombie, medicated to the gills, his weight ballooning from the side effects of Lithium.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu June 11, 2015

In One New York Apartment, Six Brothers See The World Through Film

Krsna Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo, Bhagavan Angulo, Mukunda Angulo, Narayana Angulo and Govinda Angulo in The Wolfpack.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri June 12, 2015 4:38 pm

Imagine going out into the world for the first time, armed only with a Quentin Tarantino script as a reference manual. That's the predicament, and the weird joy, of six teenage brothers who spent their childhood cooped up in a cramped apartment in a wild and woolly neighborhood of New York's Lower East Side.

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Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Thu June 4, 2015

A Strong Central Performance Elevates A Pacifist's Story

Kit Harington and Alicia Vikander in Testament Of Youth.
Laurie Sparham Sony Picture Classics

Vera Brittain, an upper-crust Englishwoman whose experiences as a nurse in World War I turned her into a pacifist, was known to my generation primarily as the mother of Shirley Williams, a similarly feisty and beloved Labour Cabinet member who still sits in the House of Lords.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

Self-Improvement Gets Romantic In 'Results'

Cobie Smulders and Guy Pearce in Results.
Ryan Green Magnolia Pictures

Kat, a personal trainer played with rabid verve by Cobie Smulders in the terrific new comedy Results, is a recognizable gym rat modestly enlarged for comical promise. "I lead with my butt," the dedicated workout queen tells a client, oblivious to the fact that he's already rather taken with that highly buffed part of her anatomy. She's obsessive and blunt and aggressive almost unto unbearable. It can safely be said that empowerment is not Kat's problem.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu May 21, 2015

A Journey Of Self-Discovery In 'When Marnie Was There'

When Marnie Was There
2014 GNDHDDTK

The adolescent girl at the heart of Hiromasa Yonebayashi's haunting When Marnie Was There has the cropped dark hair, wide eyes and square-peg awkwardness that will be familiar to fans of Studio Ghibli animated movies. Unlike the feisty, willful sprites of Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away and many other Ghibli treasures though, Anna is a cowed, sensitive soul with artistic leanings. At school she's friendless and bullied.

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Movie Reviews
5:01 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Bad Karma In 'Every Secret Thing'

Dakota Fanning in Every Secret Thing.
Starz Digital

Every Secret Thing, a clammy little thriller about missing babies and bad family karma, bristles with heavy female artillery on both sides of the camera, most of it working unaccustomed turf. The script, adapted from a detective novel by Laura Lippman, is by Nicole Holofcener, whose usual territory is wisecracking urban comedies. The executive producer is actress Frances McDormand, who got the project off the ground and recruited documentary filmmaker Amy Berg to direct.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

'Saint Laurent,' A Radical Man Of Fashion

Gaspard Ulliel as Yves Saint Laurent.
Carole Bethuel Mandarin Cinema-EuropaCorp-Orange Studio-Arte France Cinema-Scope Pictures, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 6:06 pm

Early on in Bertrand Bonello's extravagantly imagined portrait of designer Yves Saint Laurent, strict orders come down from the Great One to the stressed-out sewing room, or whatever they call it in that etherized milieu. The tone is hushed but the message is clear: the stitching's all wrong; it must be put right; it must be put right now. In every other respect, Bonello's film has nothing — believe me, nothing — in common with The Devil Wears Prada.

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Movie Reviews
5:33 pm
Thu April 30, 2015

Revisiting The Melodrama Of 'Far From The Madding Crowd'

Matthias Schoenaerts and Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd.
Alex Bailey Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

A fierce spirit ahead of her Victorian time, vacillating between love, sex and business in choosing a partner to run the farm she refuses to see go under, Far From the Madding Crowd's Bathsheba Everdene is also a woman for the ages and therefore amenable to endless re-imagining, up to and including Katniss Everdeen. All in white and gamboling through green meadows with adorable lambs and a very hot Alan Bates, Julie Christie made an unforgettable Bathsheba in John Schlesinger's 1967 steamed-up adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1874 pastoral novel.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Two Unmoored Souls Too Gloomily Drawn In 'Felix And Meira'

Hadas Yaron and Luzer Twersky in Felix and Meira.
Oscilloscope

In the 2012 drama Fill the Void, Israeli actress Hadas Yaron was incandescent as an Ultra-Orthodox Tel Aviv girl who, following the sudden death of her beloved older sister, is pressured by rabbis and relatives to marry her brother-in-law in order to preserve family unity. She suffers agonies over the decision, but never doubts the legitimacy of the Hasidic community that sustains her.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

'The Sisterhood Of Night' Wonders What These Girls Are Up To

Olivia DeJonge, Georgie Henley, Willa Cuthrell, and Kara Hayward in The Sisterhood Of Night.
Olivia Bee The Sisterhood Of Night

For a while The Sisterhood of Night, a spry, heartfelt first feature about teenage girls doing strange things in woods by night, appears to traffic in every easy cliché we adults use to bind female adolescents into knowable aliens. Led by charismatic underachiever Mary (played by former Narnia child Georgie Henley, all grown into a slightly unsettling resemblance to the young Eileen Brennan), a growing band of girls in a small Hudson Valley town take to the forest after dark, apparently to grow a satanic cult or something.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu April 2, 2015

Lost Art Is Reclaimed In 'Woman In Gold'

Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds star in Woman in Gold.
Robert Viglasky Weinstein Company

Originally published on Fri April 3, 2015 5:17 pm

Gustav Klimt's famous painting of a dark-eyed beauty encased in shimmering gold lozenges is often dismissed by art critics as a disappointing excursion into kitsch by the avant-garde Austrian painter. But the portrait, commissioned by a wealthy Jewish family not long before the outbreak of World War II, has brought visceral pleasure to countless owners of postcards, posters and key-rings who have yet to set foot in New York's Neue Galerie, where the original hangs today.

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Movie Reviews
11:51 am
Fri March 27, 2015

A Photographer's Eye For Tragedy And Hope In 'Salt Of The Earth'

Elephant in Kafue National Park, Zambia, 2010.
Sebastiao Salgado Amazonas Images/Sony Pictures Classics

The Salt of the Earth, a documentary about famed photographer Sebastiao Salgado, ends with tranquil images of his family farm in Brazil, a leafy earthly paradise restored from the ravages of severe drought. That's where Salgado went to recover from his experiences in war-torn Rwanda, and, perhaps, a life spent bringing back pictures of the self-inflicted horrors of mankind: genocide, drought, famine and the unspeakable suffering they bring to those caught in their wake.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Don't Give Up Too Easily On The Scruffy 'Danny Collins'

Singer Danny Collins (Al Pacino) with his manager Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer).
Bleecker Street

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 1:03 pm

Al Pacino as a jaded, aging rocker re-juiced by a road trip to settle accounts with himself and his long-lost family? By all means roll your eyes — the star has one brow goofily raised himself — but don't give up on Danny Collins. In a (slightly) lower key than he's wont to play, Pacino puts a sweet spin on Danny that makes him more worth attending to than you might expect from the drifting geezer we meet, decked out in regulation gold chains and a bleary cocaine haze.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

Lesser-Known Players Get Their Bows In 'The Wrecking Crew'

George Harrison and Joe Osborn in The Wrecking Crew.
Magnolia Pictures

In the mid-1960s, pop music moved its center of gravity from New York to Los Angeles. It was a seismic shift, but growing up in the cold drizzle of post-World War II London, what did I know from the West Coast Sound? I was just a rapt kid with my ear glued to Top-40 radio, dreaming of sun, surf and sex via the Beach Boys, the Mamas and Papas, Sam Cooke, The Supremes. In my fevered imagination, Spector's towering "wall of sound" had to have been recorded in a cathedral.

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