New Shows + Movies by Women — September 9, 2022

There’s a lot this week, but before we dive in, I want to highlight that Celine Sciamma’s “Petite Maman” has arrived on Hulu. If you asked me the best filmmaker working today, the “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Girlhood” director is the first name that comes to mind. I try to feature films when they hit VOD and then hit their first subscription platform. A subtle fantasy about a girl helping her parents after the death of her grandmother, “Petite Maman” has already been on MUBI most of the year. I know that is a niche platform to many. It’s worth mentioning now that it’s on Hulu, which a lot more folks have.

Series this week come from South Africa, South Korea, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. Films comes from Nigeria, the Philippines, Sweden, and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

Little Women (Netflix)
directed by Kim Hee Won

Loosely based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, three sisters who grew up in poverty find themselves involved in the disappearance of a fortune and embattled with the wealthiest family in South Korea.

Director Kim Hee Won has helmed a growing list of South Korea’s most lauded series, including “Vincenzo”, “The Crowned Clown”, and “Money Flower”.

You can watch “Little Women” on Netflix. Two episodes are out now. A new one arrives every Saturday and Sunday (two a week), for a total of 12.

Wedding Season (Hulu)
half-directed by Laura Scrivano

Not to be confused with last month’s Netflix film of the same title, Hulu series “Wedding Season” starts as a breezy wedding-themed romcom, only for the bride to find her husband’s entire family poisoned. The suspects include a cross-section of her romantic life, as well as herself. “Alita: Battle Angel” and “Undone” star Rosa Salazar is the lead.

“The Lazarus Project” director Laura Scrivano directs four of the series episodes.

You can watch “Wedding Season” on Hulu.

You’re Nothing Special (Netflix)
showrunner Estibaliz Burgaleta

In this Spanish comedy, a girl discovers witch-like powers after moving from the city to her mother’s small town. She may have inherited them from her grandmother.

Estibaliz Burgaleta is a prolific writer on Spanish comedy series.

You can watch “You’re Nothing Special” on Netflix. All 6 episodes are out.

Devil in Ohio (Netflix)
showrunner Daria Polatin

Emily Deschanel plays a psychiatrist who brings a cult escapee into her own family, triggering calamitous events.

Daria Polatin showruns and writes on the series based on her own novel.

You can watch “Devil in Ohio” on Netflix.

Fakes (Netflix)
directed by women

Two teens design a system to print fake IDs, but things spin out of control as they turn what was a small operation into an empire.

Jasmin Mozaffari and Joyce Wong direct four episodes apiece, while Emmy-nominated Mars Horodyski directs two.

You can watch “Fakes” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are out.

Recipes for Love and Murder (Acorn TV)
showrunner Karen Jeynes

In this South African crime comedy, an advice columnist uses her cooking skills to investigate murders when one of her correspondents is killed.

Karen Jeynes showruns and writes the series adapted from Sally Andrew’s novels, as well as directing four episodes.

You can watch “Recipes for Love and Murder” on Acorn TV. Two episodes are out, with another two arriving every Monday for a total of 10.

Tell Me Lies (Hulu)
showrunner Meaghan Oppenheimer

“Tell Me Lies” tracks the evolution of a toxic relationship that starts in college, impacting not just the two lovers but the lives of everyone around them.

Meaghan Oppenheimer showruns. She’s also written on “Fear the Walking Dead”.

You can watch “Tell Me Lies” on Hulu. The first three episodes are out, with another landing every Wednesday for a total of 10.

NEW MOVIES

Love at First Stream (Netflix)
directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina

A streamer and three friends navigate online connections in order to cope with their offline realities.

Director Cathy Garcia-Molina might be the Philippines’ biggest director, having directed the two highest grossing Philippine films ever made.

You can watch “Love at First Stream” on Netflix.

End of the Road (Netflix)
directed by Millicent Shelton

Queen Latifah and Ludacris star in a cross-country action movie where she has to keep her family alive as they’re stalked by a highway killer.

“Black-ish” and “Locke & Key” director Millicent Shelton directs.

You can watch “End of the Road” on Netflix.

Collision Course (Netflix)
directed by Bolanle Austen-Peters

A musician and police officer race against time as they evade corrupt law enforcement in this Nigerian action movie.

This is Bolanle Austen-Peters second film, and won Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor at the African Movie Academy Awards.

You can watch “Collision Course” on Netflix.

Diorama (Netflix)
directed by Tuva Novotny

In this Swedish film, a couple’s romance, marriage, and slow fragmentation are considered from a scientific perspective…of a sort. Can’t find an English trailer I can post here for it, but Netflix has options on the film itself.

Writer-director Tuva Novotny is an actress who made the jump to director on “Lilyhammer”.

You can watch “Diorama” on Netflix.

Unplugging (Hulu)
directed by Debra Neil-Fisher

A couple detox from all things digital in a remote town, but things quickly devolve into chaos.

This is the first film Debra Neil-Fisher directs, but you’ve almost surely seen her work before. A sought-after comedy editor, she edited the first two “Austin Powers” movies, all three “The Hangover” films, the 2020 “Sonic the Hedgehog”, and “Coming 2 America”.

You can watch “Unplugging” on Hulu or see where to rent it.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Why I (Almost) Never Skip the Opening Credits

Life is short and there are more good shows out there than we’ll ever have the time to see. So why do I almost never skip the credit sequence? Some shows take care of it themselves, either by not having one or having one so short that it’s over before you can even hit “Skip Intro”. It’s the long ones I’m talking about, though, the ones with a whole musical composition and listing the names involved.

OK, I will skip some credit sequences. It’s never a long road from there to here for me on “Star Trek: Enterprise” because I always take the shortcut. No, that song hasn’t gotten better, ironically or otherwise. I’ll also skip the openings on reality competitions, and this is what gets me thinking that my taste for credits has more to do with storytelling. The credit sequences I like most – the ones that stay with me and that I’ll seek out on YouTube to watch an extra few times – are the ones that establish an atmosphere and feeling that the scenes around them can play with.

Take the opening credits for “Evil”, centered on a small team investigating supernatural and mythological occurrences for the often unreliable Catholic Church. The show is a rarity as an actually scary horror series, boosted by one of the best ensembles on television. More than this, it’s got a palpable vein of humor running through it. It’s quick to incorporate current activism, criticize toxic trends, and has a talent for building tension off meta and meme humor. The opening credits have evolved from season to season so that the visuals reflect internal crises the characters are facing.

The credits capture a balance between the creeping suggestion of terror and the wry, smirking humor that gives it contrast. Is this going to be a funny episode, or a terrifying one? Will one turn into the other? Few shows are as good at putting you off-balance, and I watch the credits every time as the portal into that feeling. You’re looking at this curious, enigmatic, suggestive, escalating impression of something strange, which puts you right alongside the characters who do the same every episode. It’s a perfect introduction.

Of course, it’s not the only good one out there. The less said about “Severance” going into it, the better. Step in with no foreknowledge and you can have an exquisite time. Of course, the title sequence tells you a lot without your knowing it, so your impression can change as you get deeper into the series.

The blending of influences from Salvador Dali, Hieronymus Bosch, and German expressionism presented in the regimented, symmetrical, fractal manner of early computer art turns those opening credits into a moving painting, an evocative poem before the story itself.

Those are both pretty creepy openings. It’s not the only way opening titles can set a tone, but they don’t get to their unnerving places in the same way. They don’t even incorporate humor in the same way. “Evil” accelerates, increases the feeling of threat and pairs it with its macabre sense of humor. It portrays internal character struggles against the contrast of an exterior, unknowable, existential threat.

By contrast, “Severance” portrays its external plot with an internalized progression – the music is almost cautious, the images all center on its lead character and the things happening to him. Whereas the opening sequence for “Evil” is an escalating tone poem of impressions and visual humor built on our discomfort at the unexpected, the opening sequence for “Severance” is a journey of endurance filled with details and a visual humor built on schadenfreude. “Evil” invites us in to see things from the perspective of its characters. “Severance” points the finger back at us in a way that asks us to observe not just the show, but ourselves.

The best opening sequence of the year has a completely different feeling, though. For a series that witnesses characters endure such historical hardship, the joyous opening of “Pachinko” is a way of shaking off the narrow vision of one perspective, of asking us to see more in the characters than what they suffer. It’s also a way of treating survival, of diaspora itself, as a joy, that the only way for a culture to survive attempted genocide is for it to celebrate itself unabashedly.

By putting actors together who play characters in different eras, it also reminds us that actors playing these roles is in itself an acknowledgment, a celebration, an act of survival, of keeping alive those who didn’t make it, of reclaiming stories that someone else tried to erase. Few shows have been as utterly, breathtakingly beautiful as “Pachinko”. Every time, the opening titles open us up to seeing so much in each character.

Sometimes it’s not the opening that sets a tone, but the closing credits. Many shows opt for the title slam that sits there for two or three seconds to separate its cold open from whatever follows, but no opening sequence otherwise. It’s just straight prologue to action. Disney+ has favored this with its various original series in favor of more complex closing credits – which you sit through, of course, because of their post-credit stinger scenes. They often make this worth your while, such as the sumptuous concept art they show after each episode of “The Mandalorian”. It’s not just gorgeous art, it also shows you how something was changed from concept to filming.

And while the closing credits for “Moon Knight” and “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” are both powerful, my favorite from Disney this year goes to “Ms. Marvel”. It contemplates through a child’s eyes the cultural impact of a billion white heroes on film with a few scattered heroes of color. What is the impact of that on a child of color? How do they see a world that prizes a certain type of person, and how do they see themselves in that world? How do they see their access to that world and how do they want to change it? How do they envision themselves as a hero in that world when it’s tooth and nail just to get the world to envision them that way once?

My favorite closing credits this year go to “Komi Can’t Communicate”. I’m pretty indifferent to slice-of-life anime, it’s just generally not my thing. I prefer sneaky cosmic horror anime, or post-apocalypse rock people, or Witcher-as-superchill-mythologecologist, or avant garde interdimensional survival. But people just existing? Ugh.

Yet “Komi Can’t Communicate” captures a serene sense of being, in the face of social anxiety so bad its title character can barely say a word to those she wishes would be her friends. It’s a deeply empathetic show built around the moments of opening up and learning to be happy with yourself that keep people going, and it also works as a satire on anime tropes that’s equipped with a lightning-quick visual humor.

The best compliment I can give it is that once, after watching a pair of episodes, I found myself just not doing the compulsions that are part of my OCD. I felt no pressing need to check the lock several times or that the faucet and stove were off over and over again. I could be where I was at peace, without a thousand things running through my head. Whatever anxiety drives those behaviors was just…gone for a time. My best guess is that part of it’s because the show manages to find what’s peaceful amidst chaos, and more keenly because it empathizes with the experience of anxiety at a core level that makes me feel understood. I can’t recall anything else I’ve watched ever having this effect on me.

As an anime, it has a few different opening and closing sequences depending on the style of episode, but its new closing credits capture moments frozen in time from the classroom across two different parts of the year. Aside from its sense of calm and well-being, it finds a way to describe each character. Every time you watch it, you can focus on a different character being themselves, evoking what you like or find interesting about them, their relationships with each other, and their own compulsions. You can see something new by following a different character or relationship every time you watch, or you can just let your eye wander across the scene. It captures what’s fulfilling about the series as a whole, and what connects about each character individually.

There’s often so much to a title or credit sequence. If series are connected short stories, these sequences are poems and interludes that join them, that evoke a different part of ourselves. We understand short stories with an analytical, even logical eye. Title and credit sequences are an opportunity to open up another part of ourselves that’s more willing to soak in the world, to appreciate the impressions it leaves in our memory and not just its plot. The title sequence sits outside of chronology or logical explanation. It gets to follow different rules, and it keeps attentive the part in each of us that views with those different rules. That’s why I (almost) never skip the intro on fiction. I want that part of me anticipating, enrapt, searching for feeling and atmosphere as much as I am for plot and character development.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — August 26, 2022

August can be a slow-down month for new releases, but this opens up windows for films that might not see as much of an audience otherwise. Keep an eye out for arthouse and indie productions. This next month or so has always been the best time of year for low-budget films to sneak through and secure some attention.

Unlike other winter holidays, Christmas season in the media deluges toward an October start. This has displaced Halloween toward late August – the holiday territorial wars continue. Horror season has always started in September – horror movies tend to draw younger audiences, and those audiences coalesce as the school year starts. If you’re a horror fan, keep an eye out for good horror, campy horror, low-budget horror, every kind of horror you can think of. This is our time. There are some intriguing ones this week.

There are new series by women from the U.K. and the U.S., and new movies by women from Australia, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, and the U.S.

NEW SERIES

Everything I Know About Love (Peacock)
showrunner Dolly Alderton
directed by China Moo-Young, Julia Ford

Dolly Alderton turns her memoir into a U.K. series that tracks the evolution of friendship in the way that other series present romances.

“Call the Midwife” director China Moo-Young and “Silent Witness” director Julia Ford helm the series.

You can watch “Everything I Know About Love” on Peacock. There are 7 episodes, all out now.

Partner Track (Netflix)
showrunner Georgia Lee

Ingrid Yun is a young lawyer trying to balance ethics with ambition as she climbs the partner track at an elite law firm.

Georgia Lee’s short films got her selected as Martin Scorsese’s apprentice on “Gangs of New York”. Since then, she’s directed feature film “Red Doors”, wrote and story edited for “The Expanse”, and produced “The 100”.

You can watch “Partner Track” on Netflix. All 10 episodes are out now.

NEW MOVIES

Watcher (Shudder)
directed by Chloe Okuno

Maika Monroe plays Julia, who moves with her husband to Bucharest. She suspects a local murderer who’s decapitating women may be the stranger from the apartment across the street.

Writer-director Chloe Okuno previously directed a segment on anthology “V/H/S/94”. This is her first feature.

You can watch “Watcher” on Shudder, or see where to rent it.

Wolf (HBO Max)
directed by Nathalie Biancheri

In this Irish film, Jacob thinks he’s a wolf who’s become trapped in a human body. He’s sent to a clinic where the treatments are outlandish and extreme. He roams the center at night with a girl who believes she’s a wildcat.

Writer-director Nathalie Biancheri previously directed “Nocturnal”.

You can watch “Wolf” on HBO Max, or see where to rent it.

Loving Adults (Netflix)
directed by Barbara Topsoe-Rothenborg

Based on the novel by Anna Ekberg, the Danish thriller follows a woman who suspects her husband is having an affair.

Barbara Topsoe-Rothenborg is a director of Danish film and TV.

You can watch “Loving Adults” on Netflix.

So Vam (Shudder)
directed by Alice Maio Mackay

Australia has everything dangerous, including vampires. When aspiring drag queen Kurt is murdered by a vampire, he’s resurrected by a gang of rebel vampires who only feed on bigots and abusers.

Director and co-writer Alice Maio Mackay helmed “So Vam” as her feature debut at 16.

You can watch “So Vam” on Shudder, or see where to rent it.

My Little Sister (MUBI, Kanopy)
directed by Stephanie Chuat, Veronique Reymond

Lisa has given up on being a playwright. She lives in Switzerland, where her husband is enjoying a successful career. Her twin brother falls ill, calling her back to Germany.

Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond have worked as a writer-director team in Germany since 2004 (though this film is Swiss). They’ve alternated between documentary and narrative film.

You can watch “My Little Sister” on MUBI or Kanopy, or see where to rent it.

The Tsugua Diaries (MUBI)
co-directed by Maureen Fazendeiro

During the COVID lockdown in Portugal, Crista, Carloto, and Joao build a greenhouse for butterflies. We see cycles of developing a routine and struggling to adapt as they find ways to fill time at the farmhouse that is their home during lockdown.

French filmmaker Maureen Fazendeiro directs with Miguel Gomes. It is her first film.

You can watch “The Tsugua Diaries” on MUBI, or see where to rent it.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Is the Anger at “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” Accurate?

Nope. Good read, very efficient.

If you’re wondering what I’m referring to, I mean the rising anger and review brigading orchestrated by men on popular sites’ user reviews. “She-Hulk” Attorney at Law saw more than 40% of its reviews on IMDB hit 1-out-of-10 before it even premiered. The bulk of reviews overall came from men, but those who were registered on IMDB as 30-or-over were particularly negative. Right now, the show holds just a 5.5 after a perfectly good first episode.

I went over negative user reviews on Metacritic on Friday. There, it holds a 4.4. I’ll feature some of the choice quotes here again. See if you can find a theme: “feminist crap”, “constant misandrist whining”, “hatred of men”, “push social agendas”, “activist BS”, “overly feministic”, “a window into the feminists narcissistic and ungrateful, petulant brain”, “feminazism trash for the M-She-U”.

What’s the anger about? After lawyer Jennifer Walters accidentally gets an infusion of cousin Bruce Banner’s Hulk blood, she turns into a hulk. The thing is, she’s good at it. “She-Hulk” makes a point of the fact that she can manage her anger better than Bruce because – as a woman – she has to live with anger and fear every day. Whereas Bruce has struggled for a decade to mesh the dual personality of Bruce and the Hulk, getting stuck as one or the other for long periods of time, Jennifer is immediately good at fusing the two. Why? Because Bruce has struggled to control his anger, and Jennifer has learned to live with hers.

“Activism! Feminist BS!” Allons, to the fainting couch! Yes, Mr. BranFlakes5000, tell me in as angry a tone as possible about how ungrateful and petulant women are. I can’t imagine where anyone could have possibly drawn the conclusion that men have problems controlling our anger. 1-star reviews before it even premieres? You certainly don’t lash out in any way.

How could Marvel change the comic where Jennifer maintains her personality, emotional control, and breaks the fourth wall for jokes into a series where Jennifer maintains her personality, emotional control, and breaks the fourth wall for jokes? If your argument is that the MCU is ruining Marvel Comics by being accurate to Marvel Comics, and they need to stop being accurate to Marvel Comics and start being accurate to Marvel Comics, then you’re not actually reading this, you’re in a Christopher Nolan movie where you’ve found the tangible representation of a Schrodinger’s emotional state. It’s nothing but your childhood bedroom and if you go through the door, you’ll only find yourself in your childhood bedroom again. You fall forever. Turn back to page 1.

One of the more insidious criticisms of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” has to do with the treatment of Bruce Banner’s Hulk. You see, they’ve turned him into a beta male, because the alpha-beta relationship is a thing biologist L. David Mech theorized about wolves in the 1980s before realizing oh shit, whoops, that theory didn’t pan out. Now, men’s rights con artists and incel MLMs will tell you that alphas and betas are a thing because apparently we all live in movies about Wall Street bankers set in the 1980s.

To fast forward, Bruce Banner has been turned into a smug, narcissistic beta who’s just there for comic relief. To which I ask: have you seen any of the MCU films? That’s his secret. He’s always smug. The worst scene (by far) in “Avengers: Endgame” was about Hulk not listening to Ant-Man trying to save everybody because Hulk was too busy taking selfies with adoring fans. Before that, he stood in Tony Stark’s way as he tried to double down on a prior mistake that had created Ultron and put the world at risk, until Tony appealed to Bruce’s ego and they tried again. Because Bruce is smug. Sure, he’s empathetic and complex and has anger issues, but he also has a strong dash of smug narcissist that has been present throughout Ruffalo’s portrayal of him.

But Tatiana Maslany’s Jennifer is a Mary Sue, who’s good at everything immediately? I’m sorry, let me call up “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” Tony Stark, who says that about himself to Captain America, who was the goodiest two-shoes to ever good a shoe but just needed a dose of Mary Sue juice to go full Sky Captain. Or should GBPP and America’s Ass rope Thor in, whose major character flaw was being too smug and got an entire “Henry IV” adaptation about how if he faces his smugness, he’ll be rewarded with Natalie Portman. All the Avengers are is smug, except maybe Hawkeye, and that’s because Jeremy Renner is too busy chasing his dream role as Droopy Dog.

Someone’s lecturing someone else in an MCU property? Stop, don’t, come back. The movies would amount to one season of hourlongs if you cut out the lecturing. At least it’s about something now. It’s about how women control their anger better than men? They do. How is that even a conversation?

Every tupperware party of incels wants to sell that men are more aggressive, more violent, that other men need to fear their violence to know where they stand in the hierarchy, but also that men are super totes self-controlled and don’t act out their anger at all. Like, fucking choose one. Are you so uncontrollably violent other people need to fear you so much they “know their place” or can you control yourself like an adult? Which one is it? Insert Christopher Nolan’s Schrodinger’s Funhouse here, turn back to page 1.

Hell, look at this article. As a dude, I can use my anger to point out how ridiculous we as men are being about things like “She-Hulk” (and “Ms. Marvel” before it, “Captain Marvel” before that, the list outside the MCU is never-ending – see last week’s “A League of Their Own”.) There’s an entire language for male anger. I can write in it about others who have written in it. I can be condescending and snarky and make jokes and translate the ridiculousness of male anger by drawing on male anger itself, because so much of the language in which we write both fiction and criticism is based on dealing with male anger. This article is angry because male anger is so privileged that we can just write in it as the default. Male anger is how our culture is defined and described.

That’s why a portion of men get so angry about something like “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law”. The things that don’t just argue for women, but that sit entirely outside our description of the world through male anger? They threaten our worldview as men, don’t they? They threaten an entire universe of storytelling and writing that’s fundamentally based off of male anger: The Iliad, Beowulf, The Tain, the foundations of Western literature directly deal with the fallout of male anger and ego and have been translated over time to prize that anger, simplify their stories, and excise the criticisms that once existed as part of those tales. We’ve been trained in bastardized versions of our myths that champion anger. The Odyssey was once about PTSD, but read most translations today and it’s stripped down into a simple episodic adventure.

If superheroes are our modern mythology, they’re streamlined with the modern priorities we’ve used to overwrite that mythology. Some men feel threatened when they aren’t the only ones who get those worldviews confirmed by this modern foundation. Some men feel threatened when women or people of color assume any level of access to how that modern mythology is told. Incel Tupperware Party is out here upset that a woman briefly talks about having to control her anger when she’s sexually harassed or threatened, because her life often depends on her ability to remain calm throughout the situation. At the same time, Incel Tupperware Party wants to sell you on the idea that men somehow have a right to women and women just don’t know any better. They argue for a lack of self-control on men’s part that puts women at risk, and then get upset when women say they need to keep their heads to navigate the risk.

There is no greater critical achievement than to be brigaded with one-star reviews from incel movements. A lot of series are successful on-screen, but to be so successful on-screen that you can extend that success to pissing off the right people off-screen? Few things are that brave or that successful, and they deserve support and normalization. “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” says nothing untrue. My biggest problem with narrative consistency is that when Bruce hulks out, his wavy hair turns curly, yet when Jennifer hulks out, her curly hair straightens out. That’s the immersion breaker for me. First MCU plothole ever, I’m sure. Otherwise, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” strikes every goal it aims for, both on- and off-screen.

You can watch “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” on Disney+.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — August 19, 2022

Another franchise with a woman lead, another brigade of reviews before it even airs complaining about it being woke, misandrist, and other conservative buzzwords that don’t ultimately mean much. That’s the case with “She-Hulk”, as was the case with the very good “Ms. Marvel” before it.

This is just your PSA that when it comes to new shows by or starring women and breathing half a feminist concept, do not pay attention to user review aggregates. If you do, pay attention to the specific complaints. On Metacritic, for instance, I’m seeing 0-score reviews complaining about, “feminist crap”, “constant misandrist whining”, “hatred of men”, “push social agendas”, “activist BS”, “overly feministic”, “a window into the feminists narcissistic and ungrateful, petulant brain”, “feminazism trash for the M-She-U”. Now, these are reviews that actually make me want to see it, but oh my soul, what elegant wit I must be missing by passing up conservative image boards.

Yes, we men have it so difficult, we only got an awesome MCU male hulk for 14 years who was so powerful one villain correctly guessed all he had to do was pit him against the rest of the Avengers for an easy win, so intelligent he could create a superintelligence and then, oh yeah, time travel, and so sexy that Black Widow fell in love with him. But this woman hulk is competent at being a lawyer? What a Mary Sue. How unrealistic! Why, if hulks were real, a male hulk could be the most powerful, best scientist, most empathetic superhero, super-hottiest hulk to ever wear jean shorts, but a female hulk doing the job she’s studied all her life to do? Oh no! My suspension of disbelief!

Anyway, point is us a lot of us men are being whiny pieces of crap who couldn’t recognize a double-standard if it grew out of our neck as a second head shouting, “I’m a double standard”. Ignore user reviews, or read them out of morbid fascination for how bland and bloodless a significant portion of my gender insists on being, but don’t put weight in user review averages when it comes to deciding whether you should watch something. Don’t let apprentice dipshits influence what the rest of us want to watch.

This week, there are new series from Germany, U.K., and U.S., and films from Canada, New Zealand, Norway, and U.S.

NEW SERIES

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (Disney+)
showrunner Jessica Gao
entirely directed by women

Tatiana Maslany stars as She-Hulk who, like Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, isn’t as interested in being a superhero as she is in continuing her career – in this case as an attorney. Of course, things don’t always go as you plan.

Showrunner Jessica Gao has also written on “Rick and Morty”, “Robot Chicken”, and “Silicon Valley”. All episodes are directed by women – six by Kat Coiro, who’s directed on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Dead to Me”, as well as this year’s “Marry Me”. The other three are directed by Anu Valia, a director on “Never Have I Ever”.

You can watch “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” on Disney+. With one out, new episodes arrive every Thursday for 9 total.

Bad Sisters (Apple TV+)
showrun by Sharon Horgan
entirely directed by women

After the death of their parents, a group of sisters promise to protect each other. This promise may include murdering one of their husbands.

Sharon Horgan showruns the series based on Malin-Sarah Gozin’s Belgian series “Clan”. The Irish writer won an Emmy for “Catastrophe”, and co-showran this year’s “Shining Vale”.

“Bad Sisters” is entirely directed by women: Rebecca Gatward directs four episodes, with Josephine Bornebusch and Dearbhla Walsh each taking three.

You can watch “Bad Sisters” on Apple TV+. Two episodes are out, with a new one arriving each Friday for a total of 10.

Kleo (Netflix)
half-directed by Viviane Andereggen

In this German series, a killer of spies is set free after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her first order of business is to do what she does best: track down and kill those who conspired to imprison her.

Four of the eight episodes are directed by Viviane Andereggen, a German TV director.

You can watch “Kleo” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are up now.

Tales of the Walking Dead (AMC)
showrunner Channing Powell

An anthology series in The Walking Dead universe follows a different set of characters each episode. Stars coming through include Parker Posey, Samantha Morton, Olivia Munn, and Terry Crews.

Channing Powell showruns “Tales of the Walking Dead” after being a producer and writer on “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead”.

You can watch “Tales of the Walking Dead” on AMC or AMC+. Two episodes are already out, with a new one arriving every Sunday.

Echoes (Netflix)
mostly directed by women

Michelle Monaghan stars as twins who have swapped their lives back and forth since they were young. One of them goes missing, throwing both lives into chaos as the other investigates.

At least five of the seven episodes are directed by women (information I could get is incomplete, but my metric is at least half).

You can watch “Echoes” on Netflix. All 7 episodes are up immediately.

NEW MOVIES

Glorious (Shudder)
directed by Rebekah McKendry

You’ve just gone through a break-up. You’re in a public bathroom at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly J.K. Simmons’ voice introduces himself as a god of untold cosmic horrors. If I had a nickel…

“Glorious” is directed and co-written by Rebekah McKendry, who’s mostly created short horror films until recently.

You can watch “Glorious” on Shudder.

Babysitter (MUBI)
directed by Monia Chokri

In this Canadian, French language film, Cedric loses his job after making a misogynist joke. He undergoes therapy, and he and his wife hire a mysterious babysitter they think might help.

Monia Chokri directs (as well as acts), and screenwriter Catherine Leger adapts her own play.

You can watch “Babysitter” on MUBI.

Look Both Ways (Netflix)
directed by Wanuri Kahiu

“Look Both Ways” follows a “Sliding Doors” plot mechanic – parallel lives in Natalie’s life. In one, she moves to LA and pursues her dream career. In another, she becomes pregnant and raises her child in her hometown.

Wanuri Kahiu won best director at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009 for “From a Whisper”, and best film in an African language in 2018 for “Rafiki”.

You can watch “Look Both Ways” on Netflix.

Royalteen (Netflix)
co-directed by Emilie Beck

In this Norwegian drama, Lena lies about her life, which makes things complicated when she develops a relationship with a prince named Karl.

Adapted from the novel by Randi Fuglehaug and Anne Gunn Halvorsen, Emilie Beck directs on her first narrative feature with Per-Olav Sorensen.

You can watch “Royalteen” on Netflix.

Destination Love (Tubi)
directed by Aidee Walker

Madison wants to create the dream wedding for her friends. Sparks fly as she works with a New Zealand vineyard owner to realize it. This is the latest in Tubi’s focus on romantic comedies from Australia and New Zealand as part of its original filmmaking branch.

Director Aidee Walker has helmed a number of New Zealand series.

You can watch “Destination Love” on Tubi.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

“A League of Their Own” is the Storytelling I Want in the World

“A League of Their Own” feels momentous. I didn’t expect that going in. My read was that it would be a familiar property hauled out of storage for a quick cash-in. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I judge an adaptation or remake by the same question as I judge something original: does it have a reason for being? Does it succeed at that reason? “A League of Their Own” has more reason for being than the vast, vast majority of what’s out there.

You might know the story from the original 1992 movie starring Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Lori Petty, and Madonna. It follows the the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a league founded in 1943 to keep baseball going during World War II. The biggest difference between the movie and the series is that the subtext isn’t subtext anymore. Many players have spoken about how the AAGPBL had a number of queer players. What wasn’t allowed to feature in the 40s, or the 90s, can finally become the central story in 2022.

A Note on Remakes

Let’s get one thing out of the way. There are a dozen specials, features, and documentaries on Tom Brady. ESPN just ran a 10-part, 10-hour special on the dude, advertised every commercial break. More than 600 women played in the progenitor of women’s professional sports in the U.S. They’ve got two films and a smattering of documentaries. “A League of Their Own” was unlikely to be greenlit by any other name.

We salivate at rebooted Spider-Men from 20 years ago re-appearing, and get angry that Michael Keaton’s return as Batman after 30 years got shelved by HBO’s new ownership. But two “A League of Their Own” stories, how could we? What horror! And why? Is “Top Gun” or “Jurassic Park 6: Jurassic World 3” or “The Batman: Still Not the One from Red Son” or “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” making a statement that couldn’t be made 30 years ago? I like some of those films; I’ll watch dinosaurs read a phone book…but their reasons for being aren’t particularly strong.

It’s 2022. A series about the AAGPBL couldn’t be told honestly in 1992. Republicans and half of Democrats still couldn’t get over 80s rock music lyrics, let alone Hollywood bankrolling an honest, star-studded film about queer people. “A League of Their Own” is one of the few remakes out there that can take advantage of the 30 years that have passed since the original film. It’s one of the few reboots that can do more than simply make a statement – it can tell stories that we didn’t allow to be told except as coded, buried subtext 30 years ago.

On with the Review

We follow two stories, sometimes intersecting but more often parallel. Abbi Jacobson of “Broad City” plays Carson Shaw, a catcher recruited from Idaho who runs away from home while her husband is overseas fighting in the war. What she’s running away from may not be home so much as the perceptions of what’s normal for her. The team is its own bubble and, even if she didn’t plan for it, it’s a place for her to explore parts of herself she’s repressed most of her life.

We also follow Max Chapman, a pitcher who isn’t allowed to try out for the league because she’s Black. She wants to play more than anything, and brainstorms a way to join the local company team instead – which means getting a job there first.

The ensemble is excellent – Gbemisola Ikumelo is Max’s best friend Clance, who’s obsessed with comic books and their lessons. Max’s mother and father, played by Saidah Arrika Ekulona and Alex Desert, are realized beautifully.

On Carson’s team, the Rockford Peaches, the supporting cast similarly runs the comedic and dramatic gamut. D’arcy Carden’s Greta stands out because she stands out to Carson, and Roberta Colindrez’s Lupe, Melanie Field’s Jo, and Kelly McCormack’s Jess are also highlights.

I like the depth of representation apparent in “A League of Their Own”. The major experiences of focus are those of LGBTQ+ and Black characters, but there’s room for a range of characters. Clance’s husband deals with social anxiety. Kate Berlant’s Shirley Cohen copes with OCD and, even if we’re still at a point where it’s played for laughs at points, there are expressions of it I recognize and share that mean a lot to see on-screen without judgment attached.

There’s a running subplot of racism toward Latines that isn’t forgotten either, as Colindrez’s pitcher Lupe is announced as ‘Spanish’ so the crowd isn’t repulsed by her being Mexican (I’ve had ‘friends’ do this), is passed over for a job (got told it to my face), and is socially blamed for a fight she didn’t start (ah, junior high). That these are all still common show some things haven’t come very far.

To see these other experiences folded in so organically, as parts of the world that are acknowledged, that hurt and that characters we care about legitimately work their way through – it feels real. In between the comedic set-ups and often lighthearted banter, there’s a depth of realness at play in “A League of Their Own” that many shows don’t achieve.

I think this is aided by the crew being fairly diverse as well. If you’re writing something as if you know it, it helps to know it. Lead and co-showrunner Jacobson is bi. Ikumelo is one of the primary writers.

Jamie Babbit directs the first three episodes. Known for biting satire like “But I’m a Cheerleader”, her experience on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” equipped her to bring another era to life with texture and detail. The production elements – design, set, costume, they’re all top-notch. Babbit also knows how to present these experiences, being one of the earlier out lesbian directors in the industry.

Episode directors Anya Adams, Ayoka Chenzira, and Katrelle Kindred are all Black. The four writers who worked on seven of the eight episodes include Black, Iranian-American, and trans writers. Those brought in for an episode are two Black writers and a Latina writer. That’s not to give you a checklist of diversity; it’s certainly not the only thing that matters about them. It’s to say the stories being told are largely coming from the people who have lived them. That’s crucial, and it delivers a veracity that stories tackling these issues can sometimes miss.

Many films and series still tackling these experiences are still told by those who haven’t lived them, or by those who bring in a writer from a specific background for that episode in what’s still a largely straight, white, male writers room. You may have LGBTQ+ or Black voices as part of the mix, but that doesn’t often mean featuring them at the fore, and that’s what makes something unique in a landscape that’s always required those voices to be coded at best.

There are some hiccups, but none seem major. There are brief moments here or there where the pacing or rhythm of dialogue seems like it’s not settling into its groove right, but this is pretty common early on in period ensemble pieces. It’s usually ironed out over the first few episodes as the cast finds each others’ rhythms, and that’s the case here, too.

The approach to dialogue here is to meld speech of the era to modern ways of speaking that people can identify with more readily. The dialogue isn’t meant to be accurate to the time, but rather a meld and I think it works well once you realize this is the approach. The most important thing for a comedy is that it’s funny, and the lines almost entirely hit the mark while the personalities always do. There’s something more here, too, and that’s a sense of joy I’ll talk about in a minute.

The parallel stories “A League of Their Own” tells follow different paces. Carson’s story with the team is filled with interweaving arcs of her will they/won’t they relationship, power dynamics with their egotist coach, wins and losses, injuries, and the league’s attempt to make them “palatable” for men.

By contrast, Max’s story is one of not playing. She’s more isolated, and while she shares scenes with others, the fast-paced ensemble nature of the team’s storytelling slows here to a more isolated and singularly driven story. The slower nature of her arc, at least initially, means that the pacing can lurch between the two a bit.

Carson’s story can feel lean and efficient, evoking a whirlwind pace at times, while Max’s feels expansive and thoughtful, often settling into its longer moments. These ways of doing things are what each story needs, and they’re both done well. You do have to adjust to the pace of things accelerating or decelerating back and forth as the stories switch.

I’m a cishet man – I’m not qualified to be the judge of how important this is or how much it gets right when it comes to representing LGBTQ+ people or history. To me, it feels important. It feels momentous. It feels like it goes further than a lot out there is still allowed to because these characters are allowed to be fully human, complex, making mistakes and regretting missed opportunities. It doesn’t feel like we’re in an era yet where every LGBTQ+ character is allowed to be as complex as cishet characters have enjoyed for the entire history of film. Many are still emblems, there to represent something as much as they are to exist within the characters’ lives. That can be aspirational and important in many ways, but it’s also important to have enough out there, enough stories being told, enough characters represented that there are those who are realistic and imperfect and flawed as well, told by the beautifully real people whose history this is.

The characters in “A League of Their Own” feel deep, full, rich, complex, so real. They feel like they’re given the storytelling freedom that cishet characters have always enjoyed, and I wish that weren’t so rare as to be remarkable. This is beautiful queer storytelling about LGBTQ+ people and queer history.

The people who are given the financing and platforming to make series and films in the U.S. are still overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly straight. At the same time, we complain about feeling like the same stories are told over and over again. That’s not because of adaptations or remakes like this. It’s because we see the same perspectives over and over again, the same storytelling priorities from the same narrow band of culture that’s dominated the stories that get marketed, the same narrow range of cultural touchstones.

“A League of Their Own” feels like a breath of fresh air because that’s exactly what it is. It’s told from a perspective that couldn’t have gotten a story this expansive or expensive on a major streaming service even 10 years ago. We know the story, we know the history, we know the framework of “A League of Their Own”, but much of what’s meaningful inside of it, the elements of substance inside of it and stories like it, have been watered down up until these last few years. We have culturally bottled up and forced entire histories to be subtext, allusion, metaphor, code.

“A League of Their Own” is beautiful because it gets to tell this story openly, bluntly, joyfully, and even if the era it addresses was the height of subtext and code, and it must address that fear and alienation, the perspective of how the story is told, of what is prioritized, of how it’s spoken into being feels so overdue. If you want something new, look for the voices that have always been there, but have only just now been given the platforms to tell their stories bluntly. Become enrapt in someone else’s joy for their histories never taught that can finally be told.

You can watch “A League of Their Own” on Amazon.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

New Shows + Movies by Women — August 12, 2022

August can be the start of a slow-down period in movie release calendars. Of course, every time domestic releases slow in the U.S., it becomes a good period for international films to shine through. These slower periods are when studios look for international and genre films to catch on with audiences that may have had their fill of summer blockbusters. This week boasts movies from France, Greece, India, Mexico, and Taiwan, as well as the U.S.

Let’s get to new series by women first, where we find an adaptation of a 90s classic, and a visually arresting anime spin-off.

NEW SERIES

A League of Their Own (Amazon)
co-showrunner Abbi Jacobson

An adaptation of the 1992 film directed by Penny Marshall, “A League of Their Own” centers on the players in a women’s pro baseball team during World War 2.

Abbi Jacobson showruns with Will Graham, as well as starring. You’ll likely recognize Jacobson as the creator and co-star of “Broad City” (with Ilana Glazer). “A League of Their Own” has the blessing of original director Marshall and star Geena Davis, and seeks to expand the storytelling to tackle issues of race and sexuality in the league.

You can watch “A League of Their Own” on Amazon. All 8 hourlong episodes are available immediately.

Kakegurui Twin (Netflix)
directed by Makita Kaori

The new series shares its world with Netflix’s visually striking original anime “Kakegurui”. The prequel shows how certain characters made their name at the high school for high stakes gamblers.

Makita Kaori also directed “Twittering Birds Never Fly”. She started out as a design manager on “Terror in Resonance” and “Space Dandy”.

You can watch “Kakegurui Twin” on Netflix. All 6 half-hour episodes are available now.

NEW MOVIES

Reclaim (Netflix)
directed by CJ Wang

A woman managing work, family, and caring for her mother with dementia doesn’t have the time to take care of herself. She looks at buying a larger house so that everyone can have their own space, but this opens up questions of money and splitting the family up.

Director CJ Wang won Taiwan’s Golden Harvest Award for short films in 2015 for “Rowboat”. This is her first feature.

You can watch “Reclaim” on Netflix.

CW for “Holy Emy”: disturbing images, even for horror

Holy Emy (MUBI)
directed by Araceli Lemos

In this Greek horror, a Filipina girl named Emy hides a condition she thinks is supernatural. She wonders if it has to do with her mother, who has healing powers but was forced to return to the Philippines.

The film scored 15 nominations at the Greek Academy Awards, winning for best director and supporting actress (Hasmine Killip). It’s the first narrative feature for writer-director Araceli Lemos, who got her start doing sound and later editing for documentaries.

You can watch “Holy Emy” on MUBI.

Darlings (Netflix)
directed by Jasmeet K. Reen

This Indian film joins stars Alia Bhatt and Shefali Shah in a dark comedy about Badru and her mother taking revenge on Badru’s violent husband.

Jasmeet K. Reen has written on a number of Hindi-language screenplays, and this is her first feature as director.

You can watch “Darlings” on Netflix.

Our Eternal Summer (MUBI)
directed by Emilie Aussel

In this French film, Lise immerses herself in a carefree summer at 18, while coping with the loss of her best friend.

This is the first feature from director and co-writer Emilie Aussel.

You can watch “Our Eternal Summer” on MUBI.

Don’t Blame Karma (Netflix)
directed by Elisa Miller

In this Mexican film, Sara wonders if bad luck is real when her sister and a former crush get engaged. (No English translation for this trailer, but the film on Netflix will have them available.)

Director Elisa Miller has twice been nominated for her short films at Mexico’s Ariel Awards (akin to the Oscars in the U.S.), including one win.

You can watch “Don’t Blame Karma” on Netflix.

Luck (Apple TV+)
directed by Peggy Holmes

Magical organizations that support good luck and bad luck compete against each other in this animated film.

Director Peggy Holmes started as a choreographer on films ranging from “Newsies” to “Wayne’s World” and “Hocus Pocus”.

You can watch “Luck” on Apple TV+.

13: The Musical (Netflix)
directed by Tamra Davis

Evan moves from New York City to rural Indiana after his parents’ divorce. His plan to establish himself at his new school is to throw the best Bar Mitzvah in history.

Tamra Davis has also directed on “Miracle Workers” and “Future Man”, among countless other series and films (such as “Half Baked”.) She got her start as a music video director in the 80s for Depeche Mode and The Smiths, continuing on to work with Faith No More, Sonic Youth, Indigo Girls, Bonnie Raitt, and Veruca Salt.

You can watch “13: The Musical” on Netflix.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

If you enjoy what you read on this site, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.

Gorgeous, Thoughtful Alien Splatter Action — “Prey”

“Prey” understands pace better than the vast majority of movies, action or otherwise. A good action movie should ebb and flow. Early details that become important later should return in a way that feels natural, not predictable. We should make realizations as the characters do, and those characters should matter. Their relationships should matter because this is what suspense arises from, and suspense is the most meaningful element in action. You can’t just rely on a contrast between slow moments and breakneck action; you need to establish a relationship where they inform each other in a way that draws the audience in more and more. “Prey” evokes this uniquely cinematic sense of pace so well that it establishes itself as the best entry in the “Predator” franchise.

It’s 1719. We follow a Comanche woman named Naru, who wants to be a hunter. Many in the tribe object to this, though her brother Taabe can be supportive at times. Needless to say, an alien Predator has come to Earth to hunt whatever presents itself as an interesting threat – animals and humans alike. Naru insists there’s something else out there, bigger and more dangerous than a bear or mountain lion, but no one believes her. She sets off with her loyal dog to prove it.

There’s an approach to action movies where everything is used efficiently, where every detail is a Chekhov’s Gun we know is going to come back and be meaningful later. I don’t like that approach. I want my Red Herrings. I want my Chekhov’s Guns that end up failing, and Red Herrings that turn into Chekhov’s Guns when you look at them differently. That makes a great action movie, one that doesn’t just satisfy your expectations, but can play with them so expertly that it wraps up your anticipation as a willing ally.

There are suspense and splatter horror elements and some extremely atmospheric action in “Prey”. What ties them all together is a playful yet patient sense of storytelling and editing. It satisfies and subverts your expectations from previous “Predator” movies and action movies in general.

“Prey” is stunningly gorgeous. You don’t necessarily expect this from an action movie, but it’s nice when it happens. Much of this is due to the vast majority of the film being shot outdoors, often leaning on natural light. There’s a sense of peace and nature to it – and not in the way of some stereotypical approach to Native Americans. Instead, I’d say the closest comparison for its use of natural light would be a Terrence Malick movie. This is aided by a stretch in the middle of “Prey” having very little dialogue, building a foreboding relationship between the quiet and dread. Director Dan Trachtenberg has also spoken about the influence of Malick’s “The New World”, “Days of Heaven”, and “The Thin Red Line”.

This different pace and atmospherically textured approach makes the Predator’s inclusion feel stranger, more sudden, and truly alien. There’s also an opportunity for the Predator’s metaphor – a trophy hunter visiting Earth – to speak to the ongoing imperialism and genocide of Native tribes. French trappers figure into the plot in a way that makes them feel just as alien as the Predator – though smartly without lending them the power fantasy.

The acting is exceptional, particularly on the part of lead Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers, who plays Naru’s brother. Midthunder plays a rebellious action hero with inspired physicality. Beavers delivers Taabe with a mixture of arrogance and care, of carrying a burden for others, and measured concern that his care for them will make him fail that burden. His is a deceptively complex supporting role that I hope catches the praise it deserves. Most of the cast is Native American or First Nations (including all the Comanche parts, thankfully).

“Prey” is also artistically thick. Of course, many of the references are to Comanche art – both modern such as Doc Tate Nevaquaya, and traditional.

There are references to George Catlin’s paintings of Comanche villages. It’s worth noting that while these have anthropological importance, context is needed. His complex relationship to those he painted was described by anthropologist Renato Rosaldo as “’imperialist nostalgia,’ a yearning for that which one has directly or indirectly participated in destroying”. While he did record a way of life that was being violently erased, one can’t assume he did so without a biased eye.

It doesn’t feel like “Prey” takes these references uninformed, however. There’s no feeling of imperialist romanticism toward the Comanche, nor of subscribing to any racist or “noble savage” tropes. The Catlin influence is in there because it is a record of sorts, but it’s informed and measured out by a range of other influences.

There are many other details that shine through. Naru’s loyal American dingo, or Carolina Dog, reflects a once-common breed that many tribes used for hunting across the Americas. “Prey” producer Jhane Myers is Comanche and Blackfeet and has spoken about the focus on incorporating accurate Comanche aspects. The film also has a Day One Comanche dub and subtitle options, a first for a ‘major release’.

You’re obviously coming to “Prey” for the action. It’s great, across the board. The fight choreo is creative, and doesn’t feel isolated – it constantly interacts with complications introduced by the location and design elements. It’s these other details that make the action feel more consequential and engaging, though. “Prey” doesn’t just get action right, it gets the storytelling right. It gets the build-up right. All the little ways it justifies and subverts your expectations feed into its suspense. Its often breathtaking cinematic beauty and painterly execution elevates the atmosphere of the film while making the “Predator” franchise’s strong B-movie bogeyman roots feel as alien and otherworldly as they should.

For “Predator” franchise fans, there are a number of references, but not in that overburdened, “must explain everything” way that (the otherwise very good) “Solo” took with Star Wars. There are layers of reference that are there if you know them, but they aren’t belabored or highlighted. They’re cleverly and quickly implemented before they’re gone again and more important things are happening.

There are things to criticize, but they’re relatively minor. A few animals are realized in CG. While a Predator can largely be acted and puppeteered, not so with a bear. You can tell some elements that are CG, and I know that can impact viewers’ immersion, but it didn’t detract anything for me.

I’d argue that the core “Predator” franchise is much stronger than people credit it. “Predator”, “Predator 2”, and “Predators” are all well realized action movies. With “Prey”, that gives it four good movies out of five. When I say “Prey” is the best in the franchise, it’s not measuring against one Schwarzenegger film, it’s measuring against three other good films. But that also seems like a small pool to measure it against. “Prey” is a great movie, artistically compelling and with something to say within the action genre. It delivers much more than I expected.

One thing that initially gave me pause is the notion that the lead characters were referred to by the title: “Prey”. Sure, it’s some smart wordplay, but what does that say about its perspective on the Comanche, or relationships of power between cultures? The loveliest, most fulfilling realization I had watching “Prey” is that the title still refers to the alien.

You can watch “Prey” on Hulu.

If you enjoy articles like this, subscribe to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to write more like it.

Is Netflix Doomed?

All the “Netflix is doomed” opinions either miss or ignore the sheer amount of content and internationalization the platform’s achieved. Whether it deserves to be doomed or not, the other large streamers come nowhere close to matching its output.

That may be seen as producing a lot of volume for volume’s sake, and while that may be true to some extent, it overlooks three elements:

1. People watch volume for volume’s sake. Always have, always will. That’s not an argument against their future viewing numbers, it’s an argument for it.

2. That much output fills in a lot of gaps that other streaming services are missing. Enough niche audiences in one place is a subscriber base.

3. The streaming services producing a limited amount of exceptionally high quality content (what’s up, Apple TV), are nowhere close to leading the field.

The component that’s nearly always missed is the strength of Netflix’s international production and distribution agreements. Of Netflix’s top 10 most watched seasons ever, four are non-English. That’s “Squid Game” (#1), “Money Heist”, (#3, #6), and “All of Us Are Dead” (#9).

Aside from “Money Heist”, a huge number of Spanish-language series hover outside the top 10 (“Elite”, “Who Killed Sara?”, “Dark Desire”), and that’s before getting into their investment in telenovelas. Netflix is hardly the biggest player in Spanish content with Univision and Pantaya are in the field. HBO Max and Peacock also pay a lot of attention to Spanish-speaking audiences, but Netflix has had a number of both Spanish and Latin-American hits.

They’ve got a ton of French, Filipino, Indian, Nigerian, and Turkish content (although their relationship with India is routinely tenuous). They have a range of content from across Southeast Asia that puts most other streamers to shame. Many streaming services have some content in the world’s most spoken languages, but Netflix adds to this by reliably boasting new content in French and Arabic (the fifth and sixth most spoken languages in the world). They’ve found a successful niche in the landscape of original anime.

Not only is Netflix putting out more content than other streaming services, their content is diversified across a wide range of audiences. Not only do those audiences have a deep well of content to watch on Netflix, but they’re watching each others’ content as well. This includes English-speaking audiences who are reliably watching K-dramas – not just the hits, but across the board – as well as Spanish-language content. Turkish series have proven popular across a range of cultures. “Money Heist” was so popular in Korea that there’s a K-Drama Money Heist that premiered this month. And while the original was from Spain, one of the most overlooked cultural relationships that’s grown over the last several years is the one between Korea and Latin America, particularly in music but also in watching each others’ shows. One of the best places to do that is Netflix.

This isn’t meant as a defense of Netflix. There is a lot to legitimately criticize about them. Ultimately, I don’t know that they’re particularly better or worse than other streaming platforms. I do think that trying to assess their future health while ignoring their unparalleled international footprint as a platform can lead to inaccurate narratives. Netflix easily has the most diverse range of audiences, which will react in different ways to different decisions. They’re not doomed because they’ve upset American viewers, and as much as I may want “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”, “GLOW”, “Teenage Bounty Hunters”, “The OA”, or “Altered Carbon” to continue, canceling English-language shows is neither enough to chase away audiences looking at the rest of the world’s content, nor enough to keep the rest from coming back the minute a new “Stranger Things” season drops.

Netflix’s largest subscriber growth in Q4 2021 was outside North America. They’ve already hit a plateau here, but I don’t think there’s any fear of mass exodus, or any reason to fear it. Netflix concluded 2021 with more than 221 million paid subscribers and they’re not in any particular danger of losing the #1 spot. Amazon assessed that more than 200 million Prime members streamed something in 2021, but this is complicated by Prime offering free shipping from Amazon, free games, and other incentives that subscribers factor into their membership. Disney finished the year with a distant 129.8 subscribers worldwide, only cracking the 200-million mark when including unique Hulu and ESPN+ accounts.

Will they lose some subscribers? The plateau they hit during the pandemic may be unsustainable, and as other options mature and viewers increasingly adopt strategies of rotating services, they will lose viewers. I’m sure their own decisions as a company contribute to that. The other big services will take their chunks, especially if Disney rolls out a less expensive, ad-supported tier. Don’t forget the nascent services like Paramount+, which rocketed from 8 million to 40 million viewers in the span of about 15 months.

Whether I agree with Netflix’s decisions or them canceling some of my favorite shows or not, Netflix is hardly doomed. It’s still the healthiest of the major streaming platforms because you can carve a million subscribers off here or there and it doesn’t matter to them. They’re measuring audiences by country and culture at this point, not by whether they’re able to maintain an unsustainable plateau in one market.

New Shows + Movies by Women — July 29, 2022

There are many, many new entries this week, covering most major streaming platforms. You really should take your time to browse, so we’re going to skip the preamble and dive straight in:

NEW SERIES

Paper Girls (Amazon)
directed by women

It’s Halloween night in 1988 and four girls will have to time travel to save the world. “Paper Girls” is based on the Brian K. Vaughn comic book series.

Creator and co-showrunner Stephany Folsom left the show in the middle of principal photography on its first season, but she was involved in its pre-production. Mairzee Almas, Georgi Banks-Davies, Destiny Ekaragha, and Karen Gaviola each direct two episodes.

You can watch “Paper Girls” on Amazon. All 8 episodes are available immediately.

CW for “Surface”: suicide attempt

Surface (Apple TV+)
showrunner Veronica West

Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Sophie, who tries to piece together the jumble of memories that led up to her alleged suicide attempt.

Veronica West showruns. She also produced on “High Fidelity”.

You can watch “Surface” on Apple TV+. Three episodes are available now, with new ones arriving every Friday.

Keep Breathing (Netflix)
showrunner Maggie Kiley
directed by Maggie Kiley, Rebecca Rodriguez

A woman must survive alone after her plane crashes in the Canadian wilds.

Showrunner Maggie Kiley’s directed episodes of “Riverdale” and “Dirty John”, while Rebecca Rodriguez comes over from “Snowpiercer” and “Doom Patrol”.

You can watch “Keep Breathing” on Netflix. All 6 episodes are out on day one.

Another Self (Netflix)
directed by Burcu Alptekin

In this Turkish romance series, three best friends set off on a road trip in an attempt to break monotonous cycles and reshape their futures.

“Another Self” is directed by Burcu Alptekin, who also helmed episodes of popular Turkish series “The Protector” and “The Gift”.

You can watch “Another Self” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are available immediately.

Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin (HBO Max)
directed by women

The fourth series in the “Pretty Little Liars” franchise finds a new set of girls being tormented. This time, the style leans more openly horror.

Lisa Soper, Cierra Glaude, and Maggie Kiley direct. Soper handles five episodes – she’s directed on “Peacemaker” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.

You can watch “Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin” on HBO Max. The first three episodes have premiered, and at least two episodes drop every Thursday.

Amber Brown (Apple TV+)
showrunner Bonnie Hunt

A girl navigates her parents’ divorce through art and music.

Bonnie Hunt showruns, based on the novel by Paula Danziger.

You can watch “Amber Brown” on Apple TV+. All 10 episodes are available immediately.

Rebel Cheer Squad – A Get Even Series (Netflix)
showrunner Holly Phillips
half-directed by Claire Tailyour

In the spirit of 2020 UK thriller “Get Even”, “Rebel Cheer Squad” finds a trio of cheerleaders at the same private school revive the original’s club to exposes bullies.

You can watch “Rebel Cheer Squad” on Netflix. All 8 episodes are available now.

NEW FILMS

Not Okay (Hulu)
directed by Quinn Shephard

A struggling writer accumulates followers by pretending to be in Paris, but her story puts her at the location of bombings. To maintain her newfound fame, she pretends to be a survivor, as the con grows a life of its own. (One of my favorite performances in recent years was Zoey Deutch’s con artist in Tanya Wexler’s “Buffaloed”, and I’m curious to see what she does with a different angle into similar territory.)

This is writer-director Quinn Shephard’s second feature film after “Blame”, a modern adaptation of “The Crucible”.

You can watch “Not Okay” on Hulu.

Honor Society (Paramount Plus)
directed by Oran Zegman

Honor is determined to get into Harvard. She targets three competitors, determined to undermine their chances…until she falls for one. The cast here’s worth noting, with Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin from “Stranger Things”) and Miku Martineau (from last year’s “Kate”) also starring.

This is director Oran Zegman’s first feature film.

You can watch “Honor Society” on Paramount Plus.

Topside (Hulu, Kanopy)
co-directed by Celine Held

A girl and her mother live in a hidden community: the abandoned subway tunnels underneath New York City.

Celine Held writes and directs with Logan George, as well as starring. Held has directed on the series “Servant”.

You can watch “Topside” on Hulu, Kanopy, or see where to rent it.

Paradise Highway (VOD)
directed by Anna Gutto

A truck driver is forced to smuggle to save her brother. She’s chased by the FBI, and soon finds out her cargo is a girl. Juliette Binoche, Morgan Freeman, and Frank Grillo star.

This is Anna Gutto’s first feature as writer or director.

You can rent “Paradise Highway” on Amazon, Google Play, or Vudu.

How to Please a Woman (VOD)
directed by Renee Webster

Fed up with her lot in life and freshly laid off, Gina manages an all-male combination cleaning-and-prostitution service in this Australian film.

This is writer-director Renee Webster’s first feature after directing on Australian series such as “The Heights”.

See where to rent “How to Please a Woman”.

Purple Hearts (Netflix)
directed by Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum

Cassie is a singer-songwriter whose health care isn’t keeping up with her needs. A marine agrees to marry her so she can share his military benefits, but their separation makes things more and more complex.

Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum directs. She’s previously helmed episodes of “Dead to Me” and “Empire”.

You can watch “Purple Hearts” on Netflix.

Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.

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Movies and how they change you.