For the past couple of years I’ve compiled an annual list of movies that are directed or written by women. This year is hard to predict, but here’s a preliminary list to get 2021 off to a good start. I’ll be updating every few weeks. Judging from how much the dates have changed in just the past few weeks I’m guessing these will move around a lot over the course of the year.
This was a good year for female directors. The cynical part of me wants to say that’s because the studios were more likely to release movies made by women in a year of cutting losses. But it may also be the result of efforts to boost equity in the wake of the Weinstein revelations, which occurred in late 2017. If a lot of female-directed/produced movies picked up for distribution after premiering at 2018 and 2019 film festivals, the majority of those titles would start coming out in 2020.
When I was writing this list, I wasn’t sure what should count as a 2020 movie, since the Academy Awards have been pushed back to April. Ultimately, I decided only to include movies that were available via VOD in 2020, so this list doesn’t include some big titles like Regina King’s One Night in Miami and Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, although I plan to catch up with them when they are released later this month and in February. This list is a reflection of my year, and what I was able to watch on streaming platforms, “virtual” cinemas,” and via screening links. It’s probably a little quirkier than my previous best of lists in 2018 and 2019, but this was an odd year, and I’d guess that the next couple of years are going to continue to be unpredictable as Hollywood figures out what movie-going looks like in a post-COVID world.
What a year. It’s been hard to keep track of release dates. There have been times when I’ve asked myself what even is a 2020 movie. Is is a streaming movie? A drive-in movie? A movie that premieres in “select theaters” for a certain number of weeks and then is available VOD? After all these months, I’m still not totally sure what a virtual premiere is, and how it differs from a streaming premiere.
With the the Academy Awards delayed to April 25, 2021, the deadline for awards-eligible movies has extended to Feb 28, 2021, which should make for a more interesting January than usual. I’ve included releases for January and February of 2021 in this list even though I’m not sure how people will ultimately be thinking about this year of movies. Will the top ten lists be brought out in December, as usual? Or will people wait? (Do top ten lists even matter is another questions for another day . . . )
When possible, I noted where movies are streaming online–especially if they are exclusive to a particular streaming platform. Some of these titles, especially those coming out in December and January, will probably not be available on VOD until a couple of weeks after their official release date. I’m not sure if anyone refers to this list except for me, but, just in case, I will update it as 2020 winds down and things change…
I don’t have to tell you, the news is bad. Public school is crumbing, the polar bears are going extinct, and my brain is melting from the heat and the constant interruptions from my children and WFH husband. Also my computer died. And our car broke down. I got my novel back from my agent and I have a lot of revisions. I knew I would have to revise and under normal circumstances, I’d be rubbing my hands together. But now I’m just like, how? When? In what universe? Is anyone even reading books anyway? (Actually, I am! Shout out to reading! It’s a great escape.)
For all these reasons and many more, I’ve been wanting to watch movies with a little sweetness to them, and preferably a happy ending. So, here are some of my favorites from the past few weeks. I included star ratings to temper expectations: most are in the 2-3 range and it’s possible that I overrated a few of them just because I need something light-hearted. The point is, I’m not making any grand claims for their quality. But they might distract you from the news for 90 minutes, and give you a good night’s sleep without any nightmares.
Me, looking back on a time when a time when I did not know the phrase “social-distancing.”
When I wrote my New Year’s resolutions in January, I told myself I would revisit them midway through the year to see if I had stuck to them. But January Hannah didn’t know about Covid-19, so returning to this list is less about assessing my progress and more about rethinking my goals — and asking if specific goals are even possible at this time, when I don’t have any childcare and so much is still uncertain. (As I write this, my son is doing a “maker class” over Zoom and my daughter is zoned out in front of Daniel Tiger.)
Anyway, we’re officially halfway through the year, so here’s a look at the resolutions I posted on January 1, 2020 . . .
After a few years of cutting back on TV so that I would have more time for movies and books, I’ve been watching more of it. Blame quarantine. But one thing I really like about television is that there are a lot more female writers and directors. Women seem to be given more free rein in television, I guess because it’s seen as a less risky financial investment, or maybe because there is such a need for streaming content that networks are willing to take a chance on women. Who knows. In any case, my many of my favorite shows over the past few years have been helmed by female showrunners — shows like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Catastrophe, Transparent, and of course Fleabag.
I realized the other day that my current favorite shows are also written and directed by women, so I thought I’d write about them here . . .
I’m reposting this movie calendar, since a lot of the release dates have shifted over the past couple of months. The blockbusters and big-budget pictures have been delayed, but many independent films are having digital premieres. I’m hoping to catch with some of them over the next few weeks . . .
In the meantime, here’s my ongoing list of 2020 movies written or directed by women. These are mostly narrative films, but I’ve thrown in some documentaries, too. I’ve included specific dates when available, and some color-coding to help make sense of all the postponements and streaming changes due to quarantine.
BLACK= theatrical release/virtual theaters GREEN = originated in and/or intended for theaters, now available VOD PURPLE = originating on a specific streaming platform, i.e. Netflix, HBO, Disney +
Of the March releases, I have already seen First Cow — my review will be posted in a few days at The Common — and have plan to see Crip Camp next week. I’m also hoping to see Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Often, a movie about two teenage girls traveling in order to get an abortion, and my seven-year-old son is super-excited for the live-action Mulan, so I know I’ll be going to that, too.
Click through for a full list of March movies written or directed by women . . .
Last night was a pretty good Oscars for the few women who did get nominated. I’m disappointed — and a little surprised — that Greta Gerwig didn’t win best adapted screenplay, but her costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, did win — a well-deserved win, I thought, because her costumes were so expressive of each character.
As I predicted, ‘Joker’ composer Hildur Guðnadóttir won for her score for Joker –and was the first woman in 20 years to do so. (L.A. Times)
I was really happy that that American Factory won best documentary, which was co-directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. That was easily one of the best movies I saw last year. The footage they got, especially with factory’s management, was extraordinary.
In the short documentary category, Carol Dysinger won for Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), which I haven’t seen but am eager to catch up with.
Finally, Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh won for production design of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.
There’s been a lot of talk about who didn’t get nominated for the Oscars and should have, and while I’m as disappointed as anyone that Greta Gerwig didn’t get a director nod, she did get nominated for best adapted screenplay, and her costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, was nominated as well. So those are two women that I’m rooting for. (In fact I wrote a review that is pretty much an argument for why Gerwig should win for best adaptation.)
Looking over the other nominations, I noticed the usual gender breakdown, with a lot of women in the art department, but hardly any in the cinematography, special effects, and editing categories — though I was happy to see that this blog’s namesake, Thelma Schoonmaker, was nominated for editing The Irishman.
Here are some other women to watch for this weekend. This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the female nominees (though it’s close), just the nominees whose work I am familiar with from the past year in movies . . .