A conversation between Cinema Femme founder Rebecca Martin and film critic Danielle Solzman

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STARTING OUT

DANIELLE SOLZMAN: As far as actually writing about it, I got my start writing for FlickSided. At first, I was writing news pieces but I would later write movie reviews. I also wrote some original reporting, including a feature on Harold Ramis on the one-year anniversary of his passing. “Thor: The Dark World” (2013) ended up being my first official press screening a few months later. I also got to see this small Disney film, maybe you’ve heard of it, “Frozen” (2013). I fell in love with that film at the get-go—like I immediately was having flashbacks to “The Lion King” (1994). It’s up there in the pantheon of the best of animation, especially since the heyday of the Disney renaissance.

REBECCA MARTIN: Right, wow.

SOLZMAN: Yeah, and there’s actually a funny story about “The Lion King.” John Musker, who’s from the Chicago area, he’s one of the directors of “Little Mermaid” (1989), “Aladdin” (1992), “Princess and the Frog” (2009), and “Moana” (2016). He was talking about toward the end of directing “The Little Mermaid,” Disney had offered them Swan Lake, and some movie about lions in the jungle, and they were like, “Who wants to see that?”

MARTIN: A lot of people!

SOLZMAN: It’s so funny how the directors of “The Little Mermaid” passed on “The Lion King.”

MARTIN: I feel like that was one of the best ones. So when you started writing about film, you were in Chicago?

SOLZMAN: I moved to Chicago in 2008, initially for the improv scene. In hindsight, I should have probably started writing about films then, but I didn’t. I remember that sometime in 2009, somebody told me about Gofobo, and I would go and look up the codes, or in the RedEye or The Onion, or email so and so to get free passes to a screening. I moved here when the economy was crashing so finding a job did not happen.

Film critic Danielle Solzman at Sundance Film Festival

MARTIN: Yeah, that’s difficult.

SOLZMAN: Yeah, I never would have guessed that. Without winning the passes that I did, I would not have seen nearly as many movies as I saw that year.

MARTIN: That’s awesome you were so driven. So you were just seeing films at that time?

SOLZMAN: Yes, I didn’t start seriously writing about films until 2013. In 2014, it was my goal to have enough in my portfolio to land on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve been on Rotten Tomatoes since November 9, 2017.

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL AND JUDD APATOW

SOLZMAN: Tribeca could have been warmer, and would have loved to have not lost my MTA card between movies…

MARTIN: Oh no!

SOLZMAN: It was a Sunday, and it was my only five film day. I was heading out rushing to get a tripod to get access to the “Disobedience” (2017) red carpet, and I had put my MTA card in my jacket pocket with my phone, and somewhere between screenings 1, 2, and 3, that fell out.

MARTIN: Tribeca, is that all in one spot, or is it all over the city?

SOLZMAN: One theater is in Battery Park, that was a bit of a schlep to get to, but pretty much every press screening is at the Cinépolis Chelsea on 8th and 23rd. They had a few things at their Spring Studios headquarters, including “Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary” (2018), which was followed by the Paul Feig Q and A.

MARTIN: That must have been awesome!

SOLZMAN: I was tweeting during the Q and A a little bit, and Judd Apatow was retweeting me that night.

MARTIN: Oh my god, that is really neat!

SOLZMAN: I met Judd originally at SXSW. I’m friends with Kay Cannon, so I was at the world premiere of “Blockers” (2018) sitting right in front of Kay. Judd and Leslie are two rows behind me.

MARTIN: Wow.

SOLZMAN: I walked in to the theater, I see Judd standing at the end of the red carpet, so I walk up, introduce myself.

MARTIN: That’s a big deal. Have you seen the Garry Shandling doc (“The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” (2018)) that came out this year?

SOLZMAN: One of my father’s fraternity brothers used to write for some of the Shandling specials, so when I saw on Twitter that Judd was looking for people that knew Garry, I put the two of them in touch. I even mentioned that when I introduced myself.

MARTIN: That’s great! Do you feel it’s easy for you to connect with directors and actors in interviews? Is that pretty natural for you?

SOLZMAN: Yeah, it is, although there are still times that I get starstruck. I did not get starstruck around Judd although I got starstruck around Chris Elliott, and I’m friends with both of his daughters! I grew up watching “Groundhog Day” (1993) all the time.

DIVERSE REPRESENTATION

MARTIN: I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on diverse representation in films. In the past few years, have you seen any changes?

SOLZMAN: Looking at it from a diverse standpoint, I think Hollywood has started to finally get the message that we need to stop casting cisgender actors in transgender roles. This summer, you had the whole Scarlett Johansson fiasco with the film “Rub & Tug.” She backed out of it after the backlash.

A few months earlier was when “Girl” (2018) premiered at Cannes. That film was getting so much awards love, but the trans community is so upset about this because the only people who have been writing about the film are cisgender film critics. Granted, this was until more trans critics started having the opportunity to see the film in December. The experiences from cisgender and transgender film critics couldn’t be more different. I wrote an article on the film in early December after having heard the film described as trans trauma porn.  As of the end of 2018, I’ve yet to see the film.

MARTIN: Wow, OK.

SOLZMAN: Thankfully, the film didn’t advance to the Foreign Language shortlist.  Otherwise—make no mistake—it would have been seen as a huge step back after “A Fantastic Woman” (2017) won last year.

MARTIN: I haven’t seen “A Fantastic Woman” yet. What were your thoughts on it?

SOLZMAN: It was really good. It was really great for me to see a film that was getting awards contention and with a trans woman in a leading role.

MARTIN: Yeah, that was a first, right?

SOLZMAN: Yeah. The same year we had Yance Ford get an Oscar nomination for “Strong Island” (2017). While the film ultimately did not win, it was major progress in my book.

MARTIN: So you’re seeing some changes, just not necessarily a lot of change?

SOLZMAN: Yeah, this past season, GLAAD did their report, and there’s been an increase of trans actors in series, but a lot of that is because of “Pose” (2018). So it would be nice to see more trans actors taking on roles. But I’d like to see, not so much because of the story, but casting directors being like, “Hey, you don’t necessarily need to write this character as cis; it can be a trans person.” “The Sisters Brothers” (2018) and “Colette” (2018) both had trans actors playing cisgender characters.

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