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 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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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Weeping, Shooting And A Belly Full Of Gum In 'October Gale'

Scott Speedman and Patricia Clarkson in October Gale.
Jeremy Benning IFC Films

At 55 years old, Patricia Clarkson retains the golden glow and throaty delivery of a siren out of 1940s women's melodrama. But her home turf lies along the edgier margins of indie cinema (High Art, Far From Heaven, The Station Agent) and television (Six Feet Under, Parks and Recreation). There, Clarkson has thrived as a character actress who can do arch, sinister, smart, sexy, goofy and wistful on demand.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

'The Rewrite': Hugh Grant Operating At Maximum Hugh Grant

Marisa Tomei and Hugh Grant star in The Rewrite.
Anne Joyce Watch Image

Originally published on Fri February 13, 2015 1:57 pm

Even when he's walking through the shambling shtick he can do in his sleep, Hugh Grant always gives good value.

In Marc Lawrence's sweetly undemanding new comedy The Rewrite, the British actor is in familiar mode, rumpled and stammering as Keith Michaels, a once-successful screenwriter now left behind in Hollywood's mad scramble for "edgy comedies with a kick-ass young woman." Down to his last option, Keith reluctantly accepts a gig as a writer-in-residence at a public university in upstate New York.

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Movie Reviews
5:04 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

A Parisian Finds Her Place In A Rarely Seen Part Of 'Girlhood'

Karidja Toure in Girlhood.
Strand Releasing

Early on in Celine Sciamma's striking Girlhood, a deft twist confounds what you might expect from a teen movie set in a mostly black, poverty-stricken suburb of Paris. Shut out of conventional paths to realize her ambition to be "like others, normal" and fed up with the tyranny of a bullying older brother at home, 16-year-old Marieme (Karidja Toure) takes up with a gang of tough-talking girls whose charismatic leader, Lady (Assa Sylla), fights other girls and wields a knife.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu January 22, 2015

'Mommy' Tells The Story Of A Troubled, Transfixing Bond

Anne Dorval and Antoine Olivier Pilon in Mommy.
Shayne Laverdière Roadside Attractions

At first blush, Diane (Anne Dorval), the working-class, French-Canadian woman in her forties who dominates Xavier Dolan's Mommy, seems no more than a tired movie cliché, the single-mom slattern who drives other parents in her orbit to come on like the Harper Valley PTA.

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Movie Reviews
10:33 am
Fri January 2, 2015

'Leviathan' Shows A Film And Filmmaker Unafraid Of Big Questions

Alexey Serebryakov as Kolya in Leviathan.
Anna Matveeva Sony Pictures Classics

In Leviathan, Andrey Zvyagintsev's melodrama about a motor mechanic's desperate struggle to hang on to home and family in the New Russia, a photograph of Vladimir Putin gazes impassively down from a wall in the office of a corrupt mayor.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu December 18, 2014

A Beautiful, Desolate 'Winter Sleep'

Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) consults his sister Necla (Demet Akbag) about the subject of his next newspaper column.
Adopt Films

Originally published on Thu December 18, 2014 9:01 pm

My favorite movie of 2014 is three hours long, and it's about Turkish people who live in caves. Winter Sleep is all talk and vistas of steppes so beautiful and so desolate, they'll make you weep. Don't go away: Like all of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's work, the film, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year, is about life itself, in general but with thrilling particularity. You want to know why we can't get along, don't you?

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu December 11, 2014

The 1970s, Ugly And Adrift In 'Inherent Vice'

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Larry "Doc" Sportello — a private investigator with a pot smoking habit — in Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson's film adaptation of the novel by Thomas Pynchon.
Wilson Webb Warner Brothers Pictures

Paul Thomas Anderson probably wouldn't take kindly to being called a period filmmaker. And it's true that one of our finest pulse-takers of the American predicament is so much more than that. Anderson's movies track warped obsessives who come to define the particular times and places from which they get the tarnished American Dreams they pursue.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

A Claustrophobic 'Pioneer' From A Land Suddenly Grown Rich

Aksel Hennie and Wes Bentley star as offshore divers in Pioneer.
Magnolia Pictures

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 1:36 pm

Given the times, the Norwegian thriller Pioneer is hardly the first thriller in recent memory to delve into the poisonous fallout from a nation's suddenly acquired wealth. But it may be the first to conduct business from the floor of the noirishly cinematic North Sea, a roiling stretch of gray water where huge supplies of oil and gas were discovered off the coast of Norway in the 1980s. Trust me, this is not Bikini Bottom.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 27, 2014

In 'The Babadook,' A Mother's Sacrifices And A Monster's Roar

Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman in The Babadook.
Matt Nettheim Brigade Marketing

Fun though it is that women in American film have begun to dip their fingers into the macabre genres, they're way behind Australia's curve. If you're old enough to remember Jane Campion's 1989 debut feature Sweetie (about a family almost as crazy as its psychotic daughter) or Jocelyn Moorhouse's 1991 Proof (about a blind photographer), you'll know that women filmmakers from down under have long embraced the sick and twisted — so long as it's firmly grounded in the domestic.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 20, 2014

A Frustrating Love Letter In 'Monk With A Camera'

Nicholas Vreeland in Naples, Italy.
Kino Lorber, Inc.

In the late 1970s, a young American took leave of his well-heeled, cosmopolitan life to become a Tibetan monk in a remote Indian monastery. Given the times, this was hardly an unusual step, especially among trust-funders who could afford to step away from the daily grind for a spell longer than the obligatory backpacking trek to Katmandu.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

In 'The Homesman,' A Most Unromantic American West

Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones in The Homesman.
Dawn Jones Roadside Attractions

Hilary Swank is a real looker in ways that tend not to get her cast in what the industry is pleased to call "women's pictures." She has seized the day to snag all manner of bracingly offbeat roles, the latest being Mary Bee Cuddy, a bonneted Nebraska frontierswoman in The Homesman who keeps repeating that she's "plain as an old tin pail," a slur thrown her way by a heedless neighbor. No one wants to marry Mary, even though she's smart, resourceful, cultivated and — like many who have suffered hurt early and often — endlessly kind.

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Movie Reviews
6:03 am
Fri October 31, 2014

'Before I Go To Sleep' Is An Amnesia Thriller You'll Hope To Forget

Amnesiac Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) struggles to trust her husband Ben (Colin Firth).
Laurie Sparham Clarius Entertainment

The bloodshot eyeball that opens to greet a brand-new day — and I mean brand-new day — in the thriller Before I Go To Sleep belongs to wealthy English homemaker Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman). Christine suffers from psychogenic amnesia, the fright-moviemaker's best friend. She can store memories during the day, but they reliably vanish overnight, marooning poor Christine in what is either a hapless attempt to upstage Memento or a remake of Groundhog Day in noir.

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Movie Reviews
2:03 am
Fri October 24, 2014

In 'Force Majeure,' Society Crumbles Under An Avalanche

Force Majeure follows the aftermath of a split-second decision made by a father during an avalanche.
Magnolia Pictures

Off to the side of the wickedly funny Swedish black comedy Force Majeure lurks a minor but significant figure with a sour, slightly saturnine face. The man is a cleaner in a fancy French Alps ski hotel and he hardly says a word. But his wordless hovering inspires dread, nervous laughter or both. Which pretty much sums up Force Majeure's adroit shifts of tone, and quite possibly its director's take on the ways of the hip urban bourgeoisie.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Beauty And Loss In 'The Tale Of Princess Kaguya'

The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
Hatake Jimusho GNDHDDTK/Gkids

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 9:48 am

My first encounter with the lovely 10th-century Japanese folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter was in the Sesame Street special Big Bird Goes to Japan. A kind and beautiful young woman named Kaguya-hime appears out of nowhere to take the Yellow One and his canine pal Barkley on a jaunt to Kyoto. They have fun, and then the mysteriously sad woman reveals that she is royalty in civilian dress and must return to her home on the moon. Bird and Barkley were marginally less inconsolable than were my toddler daughter and I.

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