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.


Movie Reviews
9:12 am
Sat April 6, 2013

'Before And After' Dinner, Andre Is Still Talking

In his wife's new documentary, theatrical director Andre Gregory comes across as an eternal child, hooked on his capacity to enchant but rarely able to listen to anyone else.
Cinema Guild

Originally published on Fri April 5, 2013 6:27 pm

In 1981, avant-garde theater director Andre Gregory collaborated with his friend Wallace Shawn and French filmmaker Louis Malle on an oddball project they called My Dinner with Andre.

Now enshrined as a classic — and one of the most-lampooned films in the history of American cinema — the movie is a talky two-hander in which Gregory (or someone very like him) gassed away about his globe-trotting adventures in spiritual enlightenment, while Shawn (or someone very like him) listened in disbelief, then grew entranced.

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Movie Reviews
9:09 am
Sat April 6, 2013

Past Pains, Buried Deep 'Down The Shore'

The mysterious Jacques (Edoardo Costa, left) upends Bailey's (James Gandolfini) life when he arrives in the latter's seaside New Jersey town in Down the Shore.
Transmission Pictures

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 4:03 pm

If you want to tell a story, the professional tale-spinners say, make something happen.

That's true, but a happening can be defined as elastically as the teller needs it to be. Sometimes it's a shift in a character's inner landscape — a change in her responses to the common hurts and losses that she's lugged around from childhood — that moves us more than a third-act gunshot ever could.

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Movie Reviews
2:33 pm
Fri March 29, 2013

'Blancanieves': Flamenco Adventure, Snow White Style

The glamorously evil Encarna (Maribel Verdu) is the film's cruel stepmother, keeping an iron grip on authority at her weak husband's Spanish estate.
Cohen Media Group

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 8:19 pm

Like many small children with underperforming nerve-end protectors, I had to be removed from Snow White, because my terrified sobs were bothering the hardier perennials around me. My cowardice always shamed me — until repeat viewings of the Disney classic with my small daughter convinced me that one of the most beloved films in the family pantheon was in fact a horror movie about the fundamental instability of existence.

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Movie Reviews
3:45 pm
Sun March 24, 2013

An 'Admission' That Moms Might Not Know Best

High-strung Princeton University admissions counselor Portia (Tina Fey) finds old love — and a surrendered child — when she visits the Vermont prep school where old schoolmate John (Paul Rudd) is a teacher.
David Lee Focus Features

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 4:08 pm

Half an hour into Paul Weitz's new comedy, Admission, it dawned on me that I was watching an Americanized About a Boy -- which admittedly was also directed by Weitz. Both movies are adapted from other people's novels; both cobble together families out of the waifs and strays of modern life.

But where About a Boy was both funny and wise about urban alienation, Admission settles for skin deep.

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11:28 am
Thu March 14, 2013

Whatever Happened To The Real Gingers And Rosas?

The '60s London of the unhappy adolescent Ginger (Elle Fanning, with Annette Bening's mentoring May) was more complicated than students Ginger's age understand today. Film writer Ella Taylor, who lived through that decade, came late to an understanding of the toll it took on young women like Ginger.

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 10:33 am

A few weeks ago, I asked a class of college undergraduates what the 1960s meant to them.

"That flower-power thing?" one young man volunteered brightly.

The further we get from that misunderstood decade, the more the many strands of its rebelliousness get reduced to a pop-culture T-shirt slogan, a cartoon strip starring tie-dyed youth with stoned eyes and floor-mop hair.

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Movie Reviews
11:04 am
Sat March 9, 2013

The Horror And 'The Silence' Of Everyday Crimes

Twenty-three years after Timo (Wotan Wilke Mohring) witnesses a terrible crime, echoes of that act return to haunt his young family (Claudia Michelsen).
Music Box Films

Originally published on Thu March 7, 2013 6:26 pm

The Silence, an assured first feature from Swiss-born director Baran Bo Odar, has more on its mind than most crime thrillers. Among other things, the movie is about the banality of evil, and its precipitating event — the rape and panicked murder of an 11-year-old girl just outside her bucolic home town in Germany — is handled with matter-of-fact naturalism and a disciplined feel for the horror of what we can't see.

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Movie Reviews
12:13 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

'Hava Nagila: The Movie' Pays Homage To Unlikely Jewish Touchstone

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Young newlyweds are serenaded with the strains of "Hava Nagila." The unlikely origins of the popular Jewish standard are explored in Roberta Grossman's documentary feature Hava Nagila: The Movie.
International Film Circuit

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 7:47 am

I grew up on "Hava Nagila," and I'll admit it's not the catchiest of tunes. The ingenuous Hebrew lyrics ("Come! Let us rejoice and be happy!") don't wear well in our age of knowing irony and ennui.

Hip young Israelis wince at the very mention of the song, and for many Diaspora Jews, a few bars of the tune are all it takes to recall that excruciating moment late in a fancy wedding or bar mitzvah, when the band invites all remaining guests (tipsy uncles included) to kick up their heels — and then go home already.

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Movie Reviews
12:05 pm
Fri February 22, 2013

'Inescapable' Ambiguities In Prewar Syria

Paul (Joshua Jackson, left), a suave Canadian diplomat in chaotic Damascus, works to help Adib (Alexander Siddig) find his missing daughter as the city falls apart.
IFC Films

Originally published on Thu February 21, 2013 4:03 pm

It's hard to imagine an upside to the civil war now causing unspeakable suffering in Syria. But the conflict has turned out to be a break for the makers of Inescapable, a feverish political thriller written and directed by Ruba Nadda, a Canadian of Syrian origin whose last film was the languorous 2009 romance Cairo Time.

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Movie Reviews
8:09 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

'Shanghai Calling,' And The Answer Is, 'Why Not?'

Self-assured lawyer Sam (Daniel Henney) must learn to trust others and embrace life as an expat in the cheery fish-out-of-water film Shanghai Calling.

Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 4:03 pm

As Ugly Americans go, Manhattan corporate attorney Sam Chao (Daniel Henney) has a lot going for him. He's a handsome dude with perfectly symmetrical features, a toned bod we get to peek at all but naked, and facile charm to burn.

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Movie Reviews
12:06 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

'Lore': After Hitler, An Awakening For The Reich's Children

A band of virtually orphaned children (Nele Trebs, Mika Seidel, Andre Frid and Saskia Rosendahl) trek through southern Germany seeking shelter — and answers — at the end of World War II.
Music Box Films

Originally published on Thu February 7, 2013 4:04 pm

It took years for our fictions to consider the Holocaust narrative. And for an even longer time, a stunned silence hovered over the fate of "Hitler's children" — ordinary Germans during and after World War II. That embargo, too, is lifting, with a significant trickle of novels, movies and television dramas that imagine what it felt like to be the inheritors of the worst that humans can do to other humans.

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