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.

If you've read Peter Carey's marvelous 2001 True History of the Kelly Gang, you'll be aware going into a faithful new film adaptation of the novel that the word "true" is a signal to literary mischief and sly tampering with received history. Director Justin Kurzel and writer Shaun Grant mirror Carey's grimly playful take on the myths that have grown around Ned Kelly, leader of the notorious Australian Kelly Gang.

Pressed upon by a demanding mother and a school principal with an amply stuffed shirt, Selah (Lovie Simone), a black graduating senior, plays queen bee over five warring student factions at a pricey but ethnically diverse boarding school that's quite literally covered in ivy. Each faction has its own subculture, its own exchange currency and its own turf to defend. Selah's group, the Spades, dispenses cash, booze and pills to those who offer fealty, and an occasional roughing up to those who don't.

Note: Resistance will be released on video-on-demand and streaming services on Friday, March 26.

Late in Eliza Hittman's Never Rarely Sometimes Always, 17-year-old Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), who is pregnant and in all kinds of trouble, calls her mother from a public bathroom far from her Pennsylvania coal-town home. Her mother asks where she is in a quavering child's voice. After a pause Autumn hangs up, inspects herself in the bathroom mirror, and squares her shoulders.

As we hurtle closer to a time when little kids will look up from their tablets to inquire, "What was a book, Mommy?" much as they now ask, "What's a record player?," it may cheer you to learn, from a charming new documentary about bookselling, that while the middle-aged tend to play on Kindles these days, millennials are to be seen in droves reading print books on the New York subway.

As monstrous cinematic moguls go, Sir Richard McCreadie, CEO of many a failed British cut-rate clothing chain, is no Citizen Kane. Played with casual brio by Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom's genre-confounding Greed, Sir Richard is not what you'd call a brooder. To him, self-doubt — indeed introspection of any sort — is a loser's game.

My first time around with Ordinary Love, I saw two great actors doing their damnedest to breathe life into a pedestrian cancer weepie. I watched it again and saw two great actors bringing grace and depth to an imperfect but affecting chamber piece that takes it for granted that we can handle a de-sanitized drama about a long-married couple doing their best to cope with life-threatening illness. The film is not especially graphic, but unlike most others of its kind, this one trusts us to stick with the slew of treatments that often hurt more than the disease.

The premise of Makoto Shinkai's captivating new anime, Weathering With You, plays out just a whisker away from the storyline of his 2017 smash hit Your Name, about a teenage boy and girl who switch bodies, time and place. In both films a country boy moves to the big city and meets a mystery girl with special powers. Here the two, both refugees from less than adequate families, get caught up in a galloping plot of rescue, redemption and growing up, wrapped in a love story drawn from ancient Japanese legend.

A melodrama to its high-strung core, Karim Aïnouz's Invisible Life is rich in outsized emotions, most of them pouring out of two devoted young Brazilian sisters forcibly separated through the multiple follies of their authoritarian father. If love — sisterly, carnal, maternal, you name it — blazes on the front burner of this intermittently gratifying tale (based on a 2005 novel by Martha Batalha) of domestic woe, destructive patriarchy marches right along behind, ready to stomp on the slightest push for female autonomy or self-definition.

When we meet Alice (Emily Beecham), a single mother and bio-engineer devoted to her work in the effectively creepy indie Little Joe, she's busy propagating a plant whose smell will make all interested smellers happy. So far so plausible: Tampering with nature in the name of the public good — or because we can — is all the rage in life and in movies. Around Alice, apparently normal workplace stuff is going on. A pompous boss (David Wilmot) asserts his authority just because. An ostentatiously diplomatic young assistant with big hair (Phénix Brossard) lurks.

For better and worse, class pride has always run a deep vein through British society, upstairs and down. Not so the United States, where the mere mention of social class often triggers strenuous manifestos about meritocracy and equal opportunity. Which may be why attempts to reproduce Michael Apted's long-running Up anthology — inquiring into the persistence of social hierarchy in post-World War II Britain — have so far failed this side of the Atlantic. For those who think Downton Abbey is pretty much a documentary, the Up series is the perfect antidote.

On the face of it, director Marielle Heller's exhilaratingly impolite indie resume doesn't make her an intuitive fit for a movie about the nicest man in the world — let alone a big studio picture starring nice Tom Hanks.

In a deliciously digressive sequence of the rollicking Ford v Ferrari, Mollie (Outlander's Caitriona Balfe), the otherwise supportive wife of test car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), treats her husband to a taste of his own medicine after he unilaterally takes what ought to have been a joint family decision. Exasperated, Mollie propels Ken into a hair-raising speed-ride through hairpin bends in the staid family car. The joke is that Ken, a congenital speed freak who also loves his wife to distraction, is terrified and begs her to slow down.

An extended family gathers with assorted significant others in a beautiful countryside retreat. Troubles are shared, grudges and loves declared and forsworn, regrets — they have a few.

Late in Pedro Almodóvar's wonderful new drama, Pain and Glory, there comes a tough and tender flashback in which a filmmaker hears from his elderly mother (Julieta Serrano) that the neighbors don't like being portrayed in his movies. "I don't like auto-fiction," she adds with a note of acid reproof we rarely hear from the devoted maters, blood and surrogate, who people Almodóvar's movies.

Flamboyant, terrifying, and pointedly timely, Matt Tyrnauer's documentary Where's My Roy Cohn? tells the story of one of America's most notorious political fixers while grounding him in an American half-century that allowed him to seed, and thrive on, its worst impulses.

Unless you're of a certain age or a United Nations history buff, chances are you've never heard of Dag Hammarskjöld, the U.N.'s second secretary-general and a man noted for his commitment to protecting newly independent African nations from their colonial masters. Hammarskjöld's integrity earned him many corporate and Western state enemies, which is one reason why sabotage was suspected when his plane crashed in 1961 as it neared touchdown in the small town of Ndola, Zambia, then called Northern Rhodesia, killing him and most of the crew.

Blink and you might miss a priceless bit of fly-by news footage in a new documentary about rocker David Crosby, he of the sixties bands The Byrds and endlessly self-dissolving combinations of Crosby, Still, Nash and Young. Emerging from a spell in prison for gun possession and drug abuse in the mid-'80s, Crosby — shorn of his signature walrus mustache, knitted cap, and cocksure charisma — might easily be mistaken for a low-level clerk in a button-down shirt and nondescript pants belted over an ample paunch.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, a warmly absorbing new documentary by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, opens with an image of a beautiful young Norwegian woman steering a sailboat off the sun-soaked Greek island of Hydra. The footage, which was shot by famed documentarian and Broomfield mentor D.A. Pennebaker on a visit to the island in the 1960s, recurs from slightly different angles throughout the film.

Elegies for a dead or dying San Francisco lie thick on the ground, but a ravishing new film made by two friends who grew up there offers a loving elegy for the city's black community.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about a man trying to reclaim a house. It's also about reclaiming the history of the Fillmore district, a neighborhood dubbed the Harlem of the West whose black families were pushed out to the city's outer margins long before Google buses rolled in to drive up prices and exile artists and oddballs (see Tales of the City) of all stripes.

In Ritesh Batra's new film, Photograph, a villager scrabbling to make a living on the streets of Mumbai falls for a well-heeled young stranger whom he's persuaded to pose as his fiancée in order to please his grandmother. That hook is a durable staple of Hollywood and Bollywood movies alike, and both industries leave a strong footprint on Batra's mildly arthouse love stories. If you've seen the director's genial, if skin-deep 2014 hit The Lunchbox, you'll know him as a storyteller who's preoccupied with romance across social and geographical divides.

"I'm here to die," cancer patient Martha (Diane Keaton) announces to a boosterish reception committee as she arrives at the Georgia retirement community where she plans to end her days. Martha is a lifelong single who has accrued little in the way of family or friends. Now, having refused all treatment and polished off her own estate sale, she expects no fireworks (hold that thought, though) from her imminent demise at Sun Springs, a pricey pastel village dotted with semiotically resonant golf carts, water aerobics, and funeral buffets.

In Non-Fiction, five characters in search of renewed authorship sit around in more or less fetching Paris locales, holding forth on the state of literature and publishing in the digital age. Will e-readers, and online chatter kill the book as we know it? Do texting and tweeting count as writing? Can fiction survive the age of confessional memoir? Who owns the written word anyway?

The opioid crisis looms large over Little Woods, a modest but intensely empathetic first film by writer–director Nia DaCosta. But you won't see lurid footage of bewildered tots hovering near the prone bodies of parents immobilized by Oxycontin. Instead, the movie draws its drama from the underground economy in which the prescription drug crisis thrives, and the perpetual state of emergency lived by residents of former boomtowns faded into ghost towns by recession or corporate flight.

The terrific young actress Elle Fanning has a still, otherworldly beauty and a quizzical air, as if she just wafted in from some other planet and was baffled by the odd ways of Earth. A wise old soul in a supermodel's body, Fanning might not be the intuitive choice to play an unpopular high school girl with songbird ambitions and no threads to match. Turns out she can sing, dance and handle dialogue in both Brit and Polish — all while projecting a chronically introverted Cinderella vibe, with a wild side yearning to break free.

In his first narrative feature, Diane, the critic and documentary filmmaker Kent Jones (Hitchock/Truffaut) comes in praise of older women, the crankier the better. The troubled New England woman at the center of his drama seems at first to embody a familiar type: the fussy old enabler without a life of her own. But Jones proves a loving, if clear-eyed world-builder who invites us into the orbit of a woman muddling through a complicated life, rather than peddling a tactfully edited "senior" identity.

Some mighty fancy millinery plays a key role in the Hungarian film Sunset.

Remember Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network as the callow Harvard undergrad who cooked up a little thingie called Facebook because his girlfriend dumped him? Please welcome back both actor and, more or less, character in The Hummingbird Project, a likably cheeky but rambling and overstuffed hedge-fund romp by Canadian writer-director Kim Nguyen.

After bombing as Grace Kelly, Nicole Kidman is currently on a gratifying roll, stealing scenes as a Southern Christian mom awakening to her gay son's plight in Boy Erased, as a deceptively prim PA to a quadriplegic Bryan Cranston in the upcoming The Upside, and in television's Big Little Lies and Top of the Lake. With any luck, Kidman's golden streak has only hit pause with her turn as a rogue cop in Karyn Kusama's dispiriting Destroyer.

Midway through All Is True, Kenneth Branagh's imaginary wrangle of the troubled last years of William Shakespeare, a young fan approaches the Bard, who has returned to his native Stratford-upon-Avon to lick old wounds and reinsert himself into the family he has neglected for two decades. The eager visitor wants to know how Shakespeare did it — how he understood so deeply what drove the many disparate kinds of people in his plays.

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