Ali Wong, Tiffany Haddish And Lisa Hanawalt On How ‘Tuca & Bertie’ Brings Fresh Perspective To Animation And Female Friendships

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Why Comedian Anthony Jeselnik Only Uses Female Comics as Openers

It may be easy to write-off Anthony Jeselnik’s stand-up material as sexist (or racist, or any other -ist, really), but the star of Netflix’s “Fire in the Maternity Ward” comedy special is actually more female-friendly than audiences might assume.

Jeselnik almost exclusively hires female comedians to open for him on tour. TheWrap asked the offensive joke-teller behind “The Jeselnik Offensive” why that is, exactly.

“I want the opposite of me before I go on stage,” the comic explained. “It’s a total show and I want [the audience] to kind of be set up.”

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Makes sense.

So does this: “A lot of times I’d get to town and they’d be like, ‘Oh, this guy’s been begging to open for you, he’s a big fan.’ And then the guy goes out and does my act for 15 minutes,” he continued. “So, I was so sick of that.”

OK, that’s all a lot more logical than maybe we were hoping for here. But there is also a progressive reason from the progressive guy who plays a regressive jerk on stage.

“Plus, I just thought it was like an opportunity,” the former host of “Last Comic Standing” added. “It’s tough as a female opener to get hired. A lot of women headliners don’t want to use female comics.”

There we go. More of that, please.

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Unfortunately, that was plenty of patting himself on the back, it seemed. After all, Jeselnik, whose new special features jokes about rape, spousal abuse and a 15-minute closer about abortion, has a persona to protect.

“I’m not trying to be a ‘good guy,’ but it benefits both,” he concluded.

OK, so you decide.

“Fire in the Maternity Ward” is available now on Netflix. Jeselnik’s 2015 stand-up special, “Thoughts and Prayers,” is also on the streaming platform.

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‘Blow the Man Down’ Review: Film Noir Gets a Female Spin With Margo Martindale, June Squibb

It’s undoubtedly unfair to compare any and all quirky, darkly comic crime stories to past Coen brothers films, but sometimes its inescapable. And in the case of “Blow the Man Down,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, the film has enough freshness to survive the comparison.

Partly, that’s because this is a female-centric tale of nefarious dealings and violence, with men peripheral to the machinations of the wives, mothers and daughters who run the show in a remote coastal Maine town while their men are out fishing. Partly, it’s because the likes of Margo Martindale, June Squibb and Annette O’Toole get juicy roles and know what to do with them.

And partly, it’s because directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy let us know right off the bat that they have a different take on this genre: The first few minutes of the film are devoted to a group of hearty fishermen singing the sea shanty that gives the film its title — and they sing it lustily and in its entirety.

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Other shanties return at various points in the movie, with the robust tones of bearded men in flannel shirts providing a kind of Greek chorus to the noir tale as it unfolds. And here’s the thing: You might think of the sea shanty as a clichéd, easily mocked piece of music — all that “yo-ho, yo-ho” stuff, you know — but in the right hands and the right setting, these are beautiful, richly evocative songs that provide far more emotional resonance than you’d expect.

What goes on between the songs, meanwhile, is dark but subtle; there are moments of violence pushed to the point of humor, but for the most part, “Blow the Man Down” ratchets up the tension slowly and gets darker and weirder a little bit at a time.

It centers on two sisters, played by Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe, who realize after the death of their mother that she’s left them with a failing business and no way to pay the overdue rent. Lowe plays the good girl, Priscilla, who wants to stick around and save the family home; Saylor is the restless one, Mary Beth, who’d rather cut bait and get out of town.

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One night, things go wrong for Mary Beth – and as in any good noir, missteps have a way of escalating. A trio of their mother’s friends, played by Squibb, O’Toole and Harceline Hugot, try to help out, while the tensions rise between those three and the town madame, played by Martindale with scary relish.

Everybody has secrets, nobody is innocent and the fun lies in watching it all play out in a subtle noir where the dames run the show and there’s nary a hard-boiled Bogart-type to be found. From “Body Heat” to “Fargo,” women have driven the action in noir films before — but the way this one plays out, with AARP-age women holding all the cards in a setting we usually associate with rugged men, feels like a genuinely fresh take on a time-honored genre. And the ending, all cagey glances and serene indifference hiding some seriously twisted stuff, is downright delicious.

Of course, the men are good for something in “Blow the Man Down,” because you’ve gotta have somebody singing those sea shanties.

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Heavyweight Cannes Lineup Ties Record for Female Directors in Competition

Eleven months after signing a pledge to help increase the number of films by female directors at international festivals, the Cannes Film Festival has unveiled a lineup that features four films directed by women in the main competition, tying but not breaking the record set in 2011.

The four are Mati Diop with “Atlantique,” Jessica Hausner with “Little Joe,” Celine Schiamma with “Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire” and Justine Triet with “Sibyl.” An additional nine female directors are included in other sections of the festival.

Prior to this year, only 82 women were in the official competition at Cannes, as compared to more than 1,600 men.

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The lineup is filled with heavyweight directors whose films have been at Cannes in the past: Pedro Almodovar (“Pain and Glory,” which has already opened in Spain), the Dardenne brothers (“Young Ahmed”), Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”), Ken Loach (“Sorry We Missed You”), Xavier Dolan (“Matthias & Maxime”) and, in one of the biggest gets for the festival, Terrence Malick, who has finished his long-awaited World War II-era film “A Hidden Life” and will return to the festival where he won the Palme d’Or with “The Tree of Life” in 2011.

The lineup gives the annual event one of its most substantial collections of celebrated international auteurs in years — though is it conspicuously missing Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which festival director Thierry Fremaux said is not yet ready to be screened. James Gray’s “Ad Astra,” another film widely touted as a likely Cannes entry, is also not ready, according to Fremaux.

Other films in the main competition include Marco Bellocchio’s “Le Traitre,” Arnaud Desplechin’s “Oh, Mercy,” Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ “Bacurau,” Corneliu Porumboiu’s “The Whistler” and Ira Sachs’ “Frankie.”

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Films screening out of competition will include the Elton John biopic “Rocketman,” Claude Lelouch’s “The Best Years of a Life,” Asif Kapadia’s documentary “Diego Maradona” and two episodes of Nicolas Winding Refn’s upcoming television series “Too Old to Die Young – North of Hollywood, West of Hell.”

Additional films will be added to the official selection before the festival begins on May 14.

The official Cannes lineup:

MAIN COMPETITION
“The Dead Don’t Die,” Jim Jarmusch (opening night)
“Pain and Glory,” Pedro Almodovar
“Le Traitre,” Marco Bellocchio
“The Wild Goose Lake,” Diao Yinan
“Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho
“Young Ahmed,” Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
“Oh, Mercy,” Arnaud Desplechin
“Atlantique,” Mati Diop
“Matthias & Maxime,” Xavier Dolan
“Little Joe,” Jessica Hausner
“Sorry We Missed You,” Ken Loach
“Les Miserables,” Ladj Ly
“A Hidden Life,” Terrence Malick
“Bacurau,” Kleber Mendonca Filho & Juliano Dornelles
“The Whistlers,” Corneliu Porumboiu
“Frankie,” Ira Sachs
“Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire,” Celine Sciamma
“It Must Be Heaven,” Elia Suleima
“Sibyl,” Justine Triet

Also Read: Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton Team Up in Zombie Comedy ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ (Video)

OUT OF COMPETITION
“The Best Years of a Life,” Claude Lelouch
“Rocketman,” Dexter Fletcher
“Too Old to Die Young – North of Hollywood, West of Hell,” Nicolas Winding Refn
“Diego Maradona,” Asif Kapadia
“La Belle Epoque,” Nicolas Bedos

MIDNIGHT MOVIES
“The Gangster, The Cop, the Devil” Lee Won-Tae

SPECIAL SELECTIONS
“Share,” Pippa Bianco
“For Sama,” Waad Al Kateab & Edward Watts
“Family Romance, LLC,” Werner Herzog
“Tomasso,” Abel Ferrara
“Entre Vivant et le Savior,” Alain Cavalier
“Que Sea Ley,” Juan Solanas

UN CERTAIN REGARD
“Vida Invisible,” Karim Ainouz
“Dylda” (“Beanpole”), Kantemir Balagov
“The Swallows of Kabul,” Zabou Brightman & Elea Gobe Mevellec
“A Brother’s Love,” Monia Chokri
“The Climb,” Michael Covino
“Jeanne (Joan of Arc),” Bruno Dumont
“O Que Arde” (“A Sun That Never Sets”), Olivier Laxe
“Chambre 212,” Christophe Honore
“Port Authority,” Danielle Lessovitz
“Papicha,” Mounia Meddour
“Adam,” Maryam Touzani
“Zhou Ren Mi Mi,” Midi Z
“Liberte” (“Freedom”), Albert Serra
“Bull,” Annie Silverstein
“Summer of Changsha,” Zou Feng
“Evge,” Nariman Aliev

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