Late to the Party

Recently, I’ve seen three really great movies directed by women, movies that everyone said were great and which I really wanted to see, but it took me a while to catch up to them — seven years in the case of one . . .

The-Farewell-Movie-1280x720The Farewell
Writer & Director: Lulu Wang

It’s heartening to see how well this one has done in the theaters. It was released mid-July and it’s still playing in many New York theaters. It is Wang’s second feature, a family drama about a young Chinese-American woman, Billi, who feels conflicted when she learns that her extended family living in China have decided to lie to her beloved grandmother, Nai Nai, about her health. Nai Nai is very ill and according to her doctor, dying of lung cancer, but Nai Nai’s sister tells her that she’s fine and will have a full recovery. Meanwhile, the rest of the family is told the truth. Nai Nai’s children are far-flung, having emigrated to the U.S. and Japan and so a plan is made to allow them to come back and say goodbye to Nai Nai: they pressure a younger member of the family to get married immediately so that there will be a wedding to bring everyone together. This makes for a very awkward family reunion. Everyone is sad but must pretend to be happy; meanwhile, there are long simmering tensions between the family members who have left China and the ones who remain.

I loved how attentive this movie was to family dynamics and how each family member  gets a moment and is allowed to reveal their perspective. There’s a low-key humor in every scene, and Akwafina is surprisingly, the perfect anchor. I’m used to her as a zany character but here she is observant and melancholy. The ending was stunning, and reminded me of the final scenes of Lady Bird, when Lady Bird returns to New York City and, without a quick series of images, you realize she has come to the end of a certain period of her life.

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9 Women-Directed Films I Can’t Wait to See in 2019

I just updated my list of 2019 movies that are directed by women, and it gave me a chance to think about what movies to watch over the next few weeks–and also to get excited about what’s ahead for the year. So, here’s a preliminary last. Two of these, High Life and My Zoe are repeats from last year, because they didn’t end up being slated for release until this year–but I am still just as eager to see them. . .

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SWORD OF TRUST    Writer & Director: Lynn Shelton

This is an ensemble comedy, starring Marc Maron, Michaela Watkins, and Jon Bass among others. I like Shelton’s low-key movies, especially when she does comedy. I’m also a fan of Maron and his WTF podcast. So, I’m here for this one. In theaters March 8.

 


HIGH LIFE 
Writer & Director: Claire Denis

This sci-fi movie is French director Claire Denis’s English-language feature film debut. It revolves around a group of prisoners who have been sent into deep space as a way to shorten their sentences. Apparently, Denis has been trying to make this movie since 2002 and wrote the screenplay with Philip Seymour Hoffman in mind. After Hoffman’s death in 2014, Robert Pattison signed on for the lead. I’m intrigued by the premise and the trailer is so creepy I couldn’t finish watching. In theaters April 12.

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As Usual, Oscar Nominations Include Few Women

wonderwomen

I was struggling to find a photo for this post, so I decided to find a happy one, of a woman directing a movie–Patty Jenkins, with Gal Gadot, on the set of Wonder Woman. 

This was the other image I was considering:

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As usual the Oscar Nominations had only a handful of female nominees. There were only four categories (out of twenty) in which women achieved parity or had the majority of nominations. Many categories did not include any women.

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My Favorite Movies Written and Directed by Women in 2018

thelma_alice_2018_collage

This post is long overdue. First I got sucked into a holiday vortex and then all the viruses came to roost in our household. The little one would get sick, then the bigger one, then the bigger one, then the little one, then the little one . . . meanwhile, I got some variation of everything. I’ve done a lot of reading but have barely watched any movies. I have, however, had a chance to think back on the movies I saw last year.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that for the past year I’ve made a special effort to see movies written or directed by women. After the Harvey Weinstein revelations, I felt so sickened by the movie industry that I wanted to change my viewing habits to see more films made by women—not only to support women, but for my own viewing pleasure.

In 2017, before I made any special effort to see women-made films, only 9 of the 28 movies I saw were written or directed by women. This year, I watched 43 movies, a mix of old and new, but mostly new. Of those 43 films, 29 were written or directed by women. So, that’s a big improvement over last year! Still, given that I only saw around 30 movies written or directed by women, it seems a little too easy do a top ten list of film. There’s not a lot of discernment when you’re choosing the top third. Instead, I’ve decided to make two top three lists: Top Three Films Directed by Women, and Top Three Films Written by Women.

As I was putting together these lists, I asked myself how much they would differ from a top three list of all movies, regardless of gender, and I will admit that First Reformed, Roma, and Sorry To Bother You might have edged out some of the films on these lists. But, these films would definitely make any of my top ten lists—and that’s one of the reasons I limited myself to three films. One last caveat: I never got to see Happy As Lazzarro, Zama, and Let the Sunshine In, and judging from the critical response, these were great films that might have also made the list.

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Trending on Netflix: Female Filmmakers

When I was working on my most recent update of 2018’s women-directed films, I noticed a small trend: Netflix acquired a lot of the best women-directed movies and documentaries from film festivals, and they’ve also financed a number of women-directed movies. Netflix has such varied offerings that it’s a little difficult to come up with definitive stats, but just eyeballing it, they seem to have an unusually high percentage of female-directed and/or written movies on offer, including well-established directors like Nicole Holofcenter and Tamara Jenkins. Finally, Netflix has already been getting a lot of press for their recent efforts to bring back the rom-com, but I’m not sure anyone has noted that almost half of these movies are directed or written by women: Set It Up, Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Nappily Ever After, and Us and Them.

Here’s a complete list of upcoming films. I’m especially excited about the ‘coming soon’ section, which contains a couple of film festival acquisitions, including The Kindergarten Teacher, a remake of an Israeli film, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Proustian-sounding documentary, Shirkers, about a writer who recovers film from a movie she shot in 1992.

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