You don’t expect a documentary about volcanos to begin in freezing temperatures, but in the first scenes of Sara Dosa’s enthralling new feature, Fire of Love, married volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft struggle to free a jeep mired in icy slush. Farther down the road is a fiery pool of molten lava. Much later in the film, they trudge through the gray ash of a recently erupted Mount St. Helens, a setting that looks cold even though it is baking hot. Both landscapes seem unreal, even with Maurice and Katia in the frame. Their footage is so remarkable that I would have watched a 90-minute slide show of their photographs. Fire of Love is much more than that, but the film and photo archive is at the heart of the story, and it’s where Dosa looks for clues as she tells the story of the Kraffts’ career, one that was inseparable from their romantic partnership.
In recent years, female filmmakers have been carving out a space for themselves in the American West, redefining a genre and a place that is has historically been depicted as the terrain of lonely male cowboys and vigilantes. There have been period pieces like Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, and Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff and First Cow, as well as contemporary stories set in the west, such as Chloe Zhao’s The Rider and Nomadland, and Reichardt’s Certain Women. These films bring a new realism to the western as they widen the lens to center female characters and to incorporate themes of friendship, romance, and community.
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 +
This is a ongoing list of 2020 movies written or directed by women, mostly narrative films, but I’ve thrown in some documentaries, too. I’ve included specific dates when available, but as you’ll see, there are many movies at the bottom of my list that are slated for 2020 but don’t yet have release dates. I’m sure I’ve missed some titles, so if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.
Last updated: 4/23/20, I added color coding to help me make sense of all the postponements and streaming changes due to quarantine.
RED = postponed or unknown (to me) release date GREEN = premiering on video on demand and drive-in theaters BLUE = originated in theaters, now streaming or will soon stream on paid platforms PURPLE = originated on streaming subscription platforms
It may be that in a few weeks this color-coding will be obsolete because everything will just have a new streaming release date. Or it could be that I’ll have to have a new color for movies that are postponed but will be released in theaters in the fall.
Some nights, you’re in the mood for a movie but not something that’s heavy. But you don’t want to watch TV because you want something that ends. Preferably in two hours. Something that won’t insult your insult your intelligence, and might possibly cheer you up. Because it’s been a hard news week. (It’s always a hard news week.)
Enter Set It Up, a Netflix original movie that Netflix has probably already recommended to you if you watch sitcoms on its platform. I’m here to second that recommendation. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun, romantic comedy that is very happy to be one. The conventions are all in place: it takes place in New York City, and our star-crossed lovers work for vague, unnamed media companies. The girl, Harper, works as a Girl Friday for the editor of a sports news website. The guy, Charlie, also works as a personal secretary for, hmm, I can’t remember what his boss does. It doesn’t matter! This movie is not making any important observations about the modern day workplace and that’s okay. Continue reading “Set It Up”→
Outside In opens with the camera looking down on an ex-con, Chris, heading home for the first time in twenty years. Chris (Jay Duplass) sits in the back of a rain-spattered car window, eating a french fry with a dreamy look in his eyes. It’s probably the best thing he’s eaten in a long time. He will soon be delivered to a room filled with people awaiting his return. But there’s only one person he really wants to see: Carol, his old high school teacher, the person who fought hardest for his early release.
Carol is played by Edie Falco, and from the moment we first see her, she radiates goodness, intelligence, longing, and confusion. She’s in as much of a transitional period as Chris. She’s devoted years of her life to disputing Chris’s conviction, and in doing so, has discovered new reserves of intellectual and spiritual energy. She’s also become very close to her former student. She might be in love with him; he’s definitely in love with her. But she’s married, with a teenage daughter. And she’s still teaching at the high school where she first met Chris as an 18-year-old boy. So things are complicated. Continue reading “Review: Outside In”→
Here’s a simple list gleaned from a huge one at New York Magazine that ranks all the Netflix Original films. From that compilation, I picked out ten films directed by women. I made this list for myself, so that I would have a go-to group of Netflix movies instead of getting overwhelmed by the selection on the screen. Most of them I haven’t yet seen, though the two that I have—Mudbound and On Body and Soul—were so good that I’m very excited to dig in. Continue reading “10 Netflix Original Movies That Are Directed by Women”→
I got the dreaded flu. For a few days I was so sick that even watching TV was tiring. All I could do was read. (Not the worst fate.) When I finally felt ready for movies, I wanted ones that would be easy to watch, i.e. straightforward, and possibly uplifting—and woman-directed, of course. I chose two movies from last year: Megan Leavey (Gabriela Cowperthwaite) and Paris Can Wait (Eleanor Coppola).
I had high hopes for Megan Leavey, for several reasons: 1) I’m a cat person with a soft spot for dog stories; 2) I’m interested in stories about women in the military; and 3) I sobbed my way through the trailer. Continue reading “Flu Flix”→
This list started with my personal film diary. When I started thinking about writing this blog, it was mid-December, and I had watched 28 new films over the course of the year. Only five of those were directed by women! When I added in movies written by women, that brought my total up to nine, which is still low. So, I started collecting titles of movies released in 2017 that were either directed or written by women.
A few of the titles listed below are still in the theaters, and many of them are streaming online and available to rent. And, just to be super-wonky, my definition of 2017 is “films released in the U.S. in 2017.” There are some films that premiered at film festivals in 2017 that are not in this list because they will not be in wide release until 2018.
I’ve organized them into three categories: Auteur Films by Women, Films Directed by Women, and Films Written by Women. Women also wrote some of the films in the first and second categories and I’ve noted those writing credits, but I did not repeat those films in the third category. I’ve also put together a combined list of these films on letterboxd. These lists are by no means complete, especially the writing category, which was a little more difficult to research. Please alert me to any glaring omissions! I’ll update this it as needed, and I’ll also be plucking titles from it for reviews. Continue reading “2017 Films Directed or Written by Women”→