It’s a varied week. One series was filmed entirely remotely. One movie is a filmed Broadway production. There are monster hunting babysitters, struggling con women, and more than a few tragic romances.
New documentaries will once again get their own article next week. Right now it looks like there are eight documentary entries alone, which is awesome. Combined with today’s eight new shows and movies, that starts to make a single article unwieldy. Today: shows and movies. Next Monday: documentaries. Next Friday: we start all over again.
Let’s get to the fiction side of things:
Social Distance (Netflix)
showrunner Hilary Weisman Graham
“Social Distance” is a series that adheres to its name. The entire series was produced, cast, and filmed remotely. It covers a collection of families and friends doing what they can to endure sheltering in place during this pandemic.
The show was created by Jenji Kohan, the creator and showrunner of “Orange is the New Black” and “Weeds”, and producer of the recently canceled “GLOW” and “Teenage Bounty Hunters” (read my review). Nearly everything she’s touched in the last decade has been phenomenal.
Showrunner Hilary Weisman Graham is the creator of “Social Distance”. She’s previously worked as a writer on “Bones” and writer and producer on “Orange is the New Black” and Jim Carrey vehicle “Kidding”.
You can watch “Social Distance” on Netflix with a subscription.
Grand Army (Netflix)
showrunner Katie Cappiello
I share this entry with extreme hesitance. Please understand that this article is informational, to highlight as much as I can about what’s showrun and directed by women. An entry is neither an endorsement nor a recommendation.
“Grand Army” is a series about five high school students standing up for themselves against misogyny and racism. That sounds good so far. My hesitancy is because three writers of color quit “Grand Army” amid claims of racist abuse committed by showrunner Katie Cappiello. This includes Ming Peiffer, a Taiwanese-American writer, as well as Latinx and Black writers who objected to the way characters of color were being written as a type of cathartic, white-gaze, poverty porn.
Not only this, Cappiello also stands accused of calling Netflix’s HR on a Black writer for the act of getting their hair cut. (This happened well before the pandemic and quarantine, so the conversation about hair cuts or other public outings having an impact on public health has no bearing here.)
To quote Peiffer’s most pressing points, three writers of color including herself “quit due to racist exploitation and abuse. The show runner and creator went full Karen and called Netflix hr on the Black writer in the room for getting a haircut. Yes you read that correctly…Netflix was fully aware of it all and did nothing except hire more writers of color to lend their names to the show. Then had the audacity to reach out 2 years later in anticipation of the release to ‘hear our concerns’…tried to underpay the LatinX writer who just won an Emmy meanwhile creator had never worked in tv b4 but the 3 of us had”.
Read Peiffer’s longer Twitter thread regarding behind-the-scenes racism with “Grand Army” right here.
You can watch “Grand Army” on Netflix with a subscription.
directed by Zu Quirke
Juliet is a pianist who can’t quite measure up to her twin sister Vivian’s accomplishments. When Vivian is seen as the better pianist, the world seems to open up to and adore her. Juliet just exists as her understudy. One day, Juliet finds the diary of a classmate who recently died. This sets off a Faustian tale of ambition.
This is the first feature from writer-director Zu Quirke.
You can watch “Nocturne” on Amazon Prime with a subscription.
What the Constitution Means to Me (Amazon)
directed by Marielle Heller
“What the Constitution Means to Me” is a play written by and starring Heidi Schreck. It tells twin stories at different points of her life. She talks about the Constitution and its impact on her life both as her adult self, and as a 15-year old Constitutional debater. This further expands into the experiences of others, including a World War 2 veteran who attended her early competitions and today’s young Constitutional debaters.
The play tackles who the Constitution was written for, and whether it can be expanded to protect more than just wealthy, white men.
“What the Constitution Means to Me” isn’t being adapted as a film in the typical sense, but rather this is the filming of a live Broadway cast production of the play.
Director Marielle Heller is a perfect choice for this kind of adaptation. If you don’t know her name, you really, really should. She has a classical eye for a scene that gives exceptional room and support to her performers. Her last two films earned Oscar nominations for their actors – “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” for Tom Hanks.
You can watch “What the Constitution Means to Me” on Amazon Prime with a subscription.
directed by Miranda July
A young woman named Old Dolio Dyne and her parents grift, con, and heist as a living. They’re not very successful and they owe rent on a ratty old apartment. They need a new mark, who soon comes along and develops a deeper relationship with Old Dolio than the parents have. The cast is pretty interesting, with Evan Rachel Wood as Old Dolio, Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins as her parents, and Gina Rodriguez as their new mark (Rodriguez has had a problematic history with anti-Black statements, FYI).
Writer-director Miranda July has an abstract storytelling style that centers on off-kilter, somewhat invisible characters, and the humanity in what’s ‘unremarkable’ about them. She’s known for “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and “The Future”.
“Kajillionaire” is currently at that same-as-theaters price of a $20 rental. You can see where to rent “Kajillionaire” via streaming right here.
A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting (Netflix)
directed by Rachel Talalay
You go on a regular babysitting job. The child gets abducted by the Boogeyman, who looks suspiciously like Tom Felton. Now you’ve got to find the kid. While you’re at it, you end up meeting a secret society of child-protecting, babysitting, monster hunters. Look, we’ve all been there at some point in our childhood. I’m sure when you joined your local chapter of babysitting monster hunters, it was just like my own experie– what’s that? You don’t know what I’m talking about? You never joined any secret soci– oh, of course it’s not real. Not really. It’s uh, just the plot to a movie. Jeez. That’d be like, ridiculous or something.
Director Rachel Talalay is one of my favorite people in the universe. This is the woman who directed “Tank Girl”. During Steven Moffat’s high-risk, high-reward run as showrunner of “Doctor Who”, she directed all three of the Peter Capaldi series (season) finales. Each was a two-parter, essentially a “Doctor Who” movie in sum. All were among the best episodes in the show’s history. And frankly, two pair (“Heaven Sent” into “Hell Bent”, and “World Enough and Time” into “The Doctor Falls”) were among the best and most emotionally compelling (dismantling, impactful) science-fiction I’ve seen on TV.
On a connected thought, I maintain “World Enough and Time” is a complete argument as to why whoever has the rights to a “Bioshock” movie just needs to get it together and put her in charge of it.
She’s also directed episodes of “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, “American Gods”, and “Riverdale”. I don’t know quite how her mature, gothic, horror bonafides will factor into what looks like a family friendly movie, but I’m willing to find out.
You can watch “A Babysitter’s Guide to Monster Hunting” on Netflix with a subscription.
Love Like the Falling Rain (Netflix)
directed by Lasja Fauzia
Two childhood friends in Indonesia promise to remain connected no matter what happens. Kevin wants to be with her, but can’t find the courage to confess his feelings. Nara finds love with someone else, and Kevin needs to decide if he’ll hold out hope or move on.
Of course, being a new trailer for a movie from another country on a streaming service, there’s always a good chance that despite having an English trailer for the film, they never even bother to take the remarkably simple, easy, and cost-nonexistent step of putting that trailer on YouTube or anywhere else where you can embed it. That’s why you’re watching a trailer in Indonesian subtitled in German. The film itself does offer English subtitles if you need them.
If it seems like this riles me, it’s not because everything should be in English. It’s because this would be a simple step to making viewers in the U.S. seek out more films from other, non-English speaking countries, and good god, we need to be doing more of that.
Director Lasja Fauzia has directed seven films in Indonesia, many of them about star-crossed romances.
You can watch “Love Like the Falling Rain” on Netflix with a subscription.
The Second Sun (VOD)
directed by Jennifer Gelfer
In the years after World War 2, destiny brings together two people. They meet late at night in Manhattan. Both have tragic histories and haunted pasts, but perhaps they can find some understanding in each other.
This is actually director Jennifer Gelfer’s first film, though it comes out after her second – the thriller “DieRy” which arrived earlier this year. Both are low-budget features that nonetheless tackle ambitious genre stories.
You can rent “The Second Sun” for $3 on Google Play.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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